Houston approves decree requiring $2B overhaul of its sewer system
The city of Houston will expedite $2 billion in improvements to its sanitary sewer system over the next 15 years under an agreement with state and federal regulators approved by City Council on July 24.
Damaged and clogged pipes in the city’s 6,000-mile sewer system caused sewage overflows in violation of the Clean Water Act, eliciting a mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a ‘consent decree.’
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
Terms of the agreement require the city to evaluate sanitary sewer overflows to determine drainage capacity needs, perform a conditions assessment every 10 years of its wastewater collection system, and assess its wastewater treatment plants every five years.
The decree also stipulates the city must develop a sewage system cleaning plan and implement more than 3,000 smart manhole covers that digitally monitor potential overflows.
The city also is required to make an immediate $4.6 million payment to the EPA for the violations. Before it is enacted, the decree will go before a federal judge for approval and enter a 30-day public comment period.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the improvements would be funded by increased water rates effective April 2020 after a rate study is completed in January.