The City of Peoria officially has a plan to address its combined sewer overflow problem.
During a special meeting Tuesday, the City Council unanimously voted to approve a consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ending 14 years of negotiations over violations of the Clean Water Act.
“We pivoted a number of years ago to come up with this, really what’s a 100% ‘green’ solution, the first in the country,” said Mayor Jim Ardis. “We really felt like we would be setting the new standard for other communities to look at when they're working with U.S. EPA on how to address their CSO issues.”
The consent decree lays out a plan to eliminate, by 2039, the annual overflow of around 160 million gallons of raw sewage into the Illinois River. The $109 million project will use “green” infrastructure solutions such as bioswales, rain gardens, dry wells and permeable pavement.
“We realized that the areas below the Bluff, we could certainly provide an investment of green stormwater infrastructure that would infiltrate the rainwater into our sandy soils in the river valley at a faster rate in a cheaper solution than if we were to just simply build a large pipe and transfer and convey the water to the sewage treatment plant,” said City Manager Patrick Urich.
Urich said the total expense of the project is significantly less than the estimated “half a billion” it would cost to install an additional interceptor along the riverfront. However, residents will see sewer fee increases to pay for the planned borrowing to cover capital costs.
The consent decree includes milestones the city must meet in reducing CSO volume, beginning with 20% by the end of 2024. This first tranche is projected to cost $15 million. Urich said the city is hoping to secure funding through a revolving low interest loan program offered by the Illinois EPA.
Urich said the city will seek community engagement in choosing the types of infrastructure solutions while also creating employment opportunities.
“We can look at that solution within each one of the neighborhoods, within each one of the sewer sheds, and we can have that conversation with the neighborhood about the type of investment that we can make,” he said. “That allows us to also get the added benefit, as we work through this, of improving that infrastructure above ground as well, and I think that by doing that, we're going to be able to also bid packages of these projects at a level that's going to put people to work in our community.”
The consent decree includes a $100,000 fine for the Clean Water Act violations, ending 14 years of negotiations with the EPA.
There's no subscription fee to listen or read our stories. Everyone can access this essential public service thanks to community support. Donate now, and help fund your public media.