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SD1's Agreement with Federal Government Extended to 2040

An extension of the consent decree between Sanitation District 1 (SD1) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was extended Tuesday to January 1, 2040.

The consent decree, first adopted in 2005, gives SD1 time to comply with federal law under the Clean Water Act of 1972, mitigating combined system overflows (CSOs) and sanitary system overflows (SS)s) by the year 2025.

Northern Kentucky currently experiences over one billion gallons of CSOs and 115 million gallons of SSOs per year and the amended consent decree, adopted Tuesday by the SD1 board of directors, will provide the utility about 15 additional years to make infrastructure improvements aimed at addressing these overflows under the Clean Water Act.

“Affordability has been a driving factor in our negotiations with the regulators,” said SD1 Executive Director Adam Chaney. “The extension will allow us to spread infrastructure capital costs over a longer period, reducing the financial impact to our customers while ensuring progress on overflow mitigation.”

The cost to clean up Northern Kentucky’s sewer overflows has been estimated at $1.3 billion, but the extension approved by SD1’s board gives the utility the flexibility to take advantage of emerging technologies and innovative approaches to lower that cost, a news release said.

SD1 is currently updating its long-term infrastructure plan to incorporate these new strategies. “The key is to continue to innovate and find efficiencies in our operating and capital plans,” Chaney said.

He said the extension also provides SD1 an opportunity to think about the consent decree in a new way. “This is really a partnership with the EPA and the state of Kentucky,” he said. “It gives us clear objectives and the flexibility we need to meet those objectives.”

Chaney said that while meeting these goals will not be easy, SD1 can now build a plan that is focused on accomplishing them in the most economical way possible. The extension of the consent decree is only part of that, he said. Through the adoption of a continuous improvement business model, the District has been reducing its operating costs and is currently exploring a rate restructure to address consumption decline and more closely align fees with SD1’s cost of providing service. 

While the amended consent decree will not become final until it is approved by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky – a process that could take several months – Chaney said SD1 is optimistic that process will go smoothly.

“The 2040 extension is a big step forward for our region,” he said. “Now we must work to engage all of Northern Kentucky in support of these important cleanup efforts to protect public health, property and the environment, while continuing to support the economic vitality of our community.”

-Staff report