EPA releases proposed requirements for combined sewer overflows in the Great Lakes

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On December 16, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rule that would address public notification requirements for combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges to the Great Lakes. It would require wastewater treatment plants in 182 communities to develop and/or revise signage and public notification plans on CSO discharges in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  The proposed rule is directly relevant to those counties that operate CSO wastewater treatment facilities in that area.

CSOs are system used by some wastewater treatment plants to treat excess stormwater. Most facilities are able to process stormwater through their primary system but, in heavy rain events, the system is designed to “overflow” excess stormwater to a secondary treatment plant. The secondary plant treats the water, “blends” it with the primary plant’s treated water before releasing it. But, in recent years, concerns have been raised on whether CSOs treat water to a high enough standard to protect public health.

This rule is a result of the Consolidations Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-112) that passed in December 2015 and required EPA to work with the Great Lakes states to establish public notification requirements for CSO discharges to the Great Lakes.

NACo will continue to monitor this rule and requests feedback from counties that may be impacted by these proposed requirements.

Contact: Julie Ufner at or 202.942.4269

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