Recently, the City of Morristown was ordered by Judge Ronnie Greer to rehabilitate the Witt sewer line by June 30, 2011. Patricia Stephens, et al v. City of Morristown. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville.
Judge Greer has now assessed the City of Morristown with civil penalties of $105,000 in the same federal lawsuit.
In deciding the issue of civil penalties under the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Court determined that the City will pay $1,250.00 per day for 72 violations for a total of $90,000.00 plus $15,000.00 for a particularly serious overflow on July 19, 2007. "The total civil penalties assessed is, therefore, $105,000.00."
The July 19, 2007 overflow, which was one of 14 reported between July 2005-June 2008, resulted in 10,000 gallons of raw sewage flowing from the manhole into the street and the surrounding area where a creek is located.
Considering that the penalties could have been much heavier, Morristown should be pleased.
Two of the several factors that the Court considered in its imposition of less-than-maximum daily penalties were (1) the violations involved odors and inability of the plaintiffs to fully enjoy use of their property at times rather than violations that poisoned the water and put individuals at risk; and (2) the City's sewer customers and/or taxpayers, both of whom are already feeling the effect of "tough economic times," will ultimately have to bear the cost of the civil penalties.
The Court noted that the problems began in 2005 with the opening of the Koch Foods deboning plant in the East Tennessee Progress Center and that the City failed to respond in any meaningful way to the complaints of the members of the Witt and Roe Junction communities.
The Court: "It took a lawsuit to compel action."