Environmental nonprofit sues Houston over 'recurring' wastewater discharges, says city violated Clean Water Act

By John Suayan | Sep 24, 2018


HOUSTON – A local watershed advocacy group hopes federal litigation will get the city to correct its wastewater discharges.

Recent Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas records show that Bayou City Waterkeeper filed a 19-page lawsuit on Sept. 21.

BCW explains that Houston “has self-reported more than 9,300 sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and bypasses at its municipally-owned wastewater treatment plants and collection systems, which have spilled sewage-contaminated water into area waterways,” in the previous half-decade.

The original petition asserts that the defendant violated both the Clean Water Act and the terms of its own Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, implying the discharges “are continuing and likely to recur.”

“The city has not taken adequate steps to address and prevent its recurring wastewater discharges, SSOs, and bypasses, and neither the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nor the State of Texas has diligently prosecuted the city’s legal violations,” the suit says.

According to BCW, Houston previously entered into a compliance agreement with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality “to address some of its longstanding wastewater disposal problems,” but the defendant’s efforts to upgrade, clean, and renew “some of its sewer pipes and infrastructure” were insufficient.

Consequently, the environmental nonprofit seeks a declaratory judgment stating that the city “has violated and is continuing to violate” the CWA and the conditions of its TPDES permits, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to ensure that the respondent prevents the “recurring discharge of untreated wastewater” and addresses the environmental effects.

The law firm Frederick, Perales, Allmon & Rockwell, P.C. in Austin is representing the plaintiff.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas Case No. 4:18-CV-3369

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