After many months of negotiation and consideration of public comment, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a Motion to Enter a Modification to the Partial Consent Decree between the United States and PADEP v. Capital Region Water and the City of Harrisburg as a judgement of the court. The motion to approve and enter the Modification occurred yesterday in Federal District Court in Harrisburg.

This Modification to the Partial Consent Decree will guide Capital Region Water’s wastewater and stormwater work for the next decade. Specific plans and projects are required to address alleged clean water violations, primarily due to sewer overflows and the discharge of polluted stormwater into local waterways. The filing establishes a timetable for compliance activity.

“Capital Region Water looks forward to meeting its clean water obligations, as it has since its inception 10 years ago, and ensuring that customers and stakeholders are partners in the process” said Capital Region Water CEO Charlotte Katzenmoyer. ”Projects included in the Consent Decree will have a direct impact on determining customer rates, annual budgets, and system investments. Related construction activity, including community greening projects, can be expected.”

Like many communities across the country, more than half of Harrisburg’s sewer pipes are part of a combined sewer system meaning both sanitary waste and stormwater are collected and conveyed through the same pipes for treatment. During wet weather, the volume of stormwater sometimes exceeds the system’s capacity, triggering an overflow event — called a combined sewer overflow or CSO — from outfall locations along the Susquehanna River and Paxton Creek.

A consent decree (sometimes called a consent order) is a formal agreement created to resolve a dispute without fault. It’s a court order that establishes an enforceable plan for improvement. In 2015, after decades of infrastructure neglect and inaction by previous city administrations, a formal complaint against Capital Region Water and the City of Harrisburg and an agreed-upon Partial Consent Decree were filed in court. The 2015 Partial Consent Decree required specific compliance measures to control discharges from the sewer system, which consists of the combined and separate sanitary sewer collection systems, conveyance and treatment systems, and the municipal separate stormwater sewer system (MS4) within Harrisburg. The intent of the Partial Consent Decree was to allow sufficient time for Capital Region Water to develop an approvable long-term plan; however, it was acknowledged that the inherited system suffered from decades of neglect and disinvestment.

Under the Modification to the Partial Consent Decree, Capital Region Water will achieve full compliance with pollution and stormwater permits. An updated Long-Term Control Plan for CSO capture will be developed and submitted by December 31, 2024. This plan will evaluate the best means to control CSO activity to comply with the Clean Water Act.

Within ten (10) days of the Effective Date (i.e., the date on which the Court accepts the Modification), Capital Region Water will provide a list of all the deliverables and deadlines included in the Modification to the Partial Consent Decree. Capital Region Water will continue to report progress on a semi-annual basis by March 31 and September 30 of each year.

Ongoing information will be available through the website and associated public notification procedures. For more details on the City Beautiful H2O Program Plan, CRW’s integrated plan to restore failing infrastructure, reduce combined sewer discharges, improve the health of local waterways, and beautify our neighborhoods through community greening, please visit our website at:

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