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Watershed Planning To Improve Water Quality in Northern Kentucky and Comply with A Consent Decree

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Communities with combined sewer overflows (CSOs), sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), or municipal storm water discharges may be expected to enter into a Consent Decree, particularly if water quality standards are not being attained. These decrees typically specify that the community develop and implement a control plan, often over a 15 to 20 year period, to comply with federal and state clean water regulations.

The role of other pollutant sources, such as urban and rural stormwater runoff, failing septic systems, straight pipe discharges, streambank erosion, animal feeding operations, other permitted discharges, etc., in preventing the attainment of water quality standards is rarely a critical element in the development of the control plan. In many cases, these other pollutant sources are a significant contributor to water quality impairment. As a result, improvement in water quality following the implementation of a costly sewer overflow program may be limited.

Sanitation District No. 1 (SD1), the State of Kentucky, and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) negotiated the country's first CSO and SSO Consent Decree which uses the watershed management approach to address these issues (2:2005CV00199). This paper describes the watershed management approach that SD1 used to select green infrastructure, watershed control, and traditional gray infrastructure solutions to be included in the Watershed Plans so that the Consent Decree requirements can be met in a cost-effective manner to improve water quality and public health protection. (Watershed controls represent controls on pollutant sources other than sewer overflows and green infrastructure). The paper describes some of the challenges facing SD1 in developing and applying the watershed management approach and current solutions to those challenges. The areas that will be covered include benefits (and challenges) of the watershed approach, stakeholder input and acceptance, watershed and infrastructure characteristics, cost-effectiveness assessments, and implementation of controls.
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Keywords: Consent Decree; Watershed planning; gray solutions; green solutions; sewer overflows; water quality; watershed controls

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2009

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