City still needs OK to improve sewer plant

EPA objection stymies efforts

Plans for required upgrades to the City of Fulton’s wastewater treatment plant continue to be on hold as local and national officials and the Department of Natural Resources work to come to a resolution with the Environmental Protection Agency.

The city applied for a permit and consent order to make approximately $15 million in improvements that would enable Fulton’s wastewater treatment plant to meet ever-increasing federal regulations, but an objection filed by the EPA has the city at a standstill.

“It’s the responsibility of DNR to answer the EPA’s objection,” Fulton Director of Administration Bill Johnson said. “There’s nothing we can do.”

He said the point of contention from the EPA centers primarily around the total maximum daily load, which “were not specifically outlined in the proposed permit.”

“With current 2013 technology, some of those limits are unattainable at any price,” Johnson said. “We didn’t want them included for fear at some future point they would want to hold us accountable to that.”

Although the EPA is trying to hold the line on that point, Johnson said the city has been receiving support from DNR and from Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer.

“We’ve had a lot of cooperation out of DNR. I believe DNR understands the predicament EPA is placing us,” he said, adding that, “Congressman Luetkemeyer’s office has been very aggressive in supporting the city in working with the EPA.”

Luetkemeyer said his office is taking the issue — which he said eventually will affect nearly all municipalities as their wastewater treatment permits come up for renewal — very seriously.

“We’re trying to keep their feet to the fire,” Luetkemeyer said. “Fulton and Bolivar are probably the two test cases for what’s going to happen over the next few years, and we want to make sure the process is fair, make sure the EPA is interpreting the rules properly.

“They have the ability to interpret (the law) and there’s definitely a difference of opinion (between the EPA and DNR). We’ve got to get that figured out. We’re looking to get some agreement on both sides so communities don’t get caught in the middle like this.”

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