Region 1: EPA New England

Enforcement to Address Sewer Overflows

Preventing sewer overflows is a national enforcement priority for EPA. EPA's compliance goal is to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) from municipal collection systems and to ensure that wastewater is being conveyed to treatment plants in accordance with the requirements of the Clean Water Act. To eliminate SSOs, EPA uses a mix of compliance and enforcement tools. As part of its efforts to achieve these improvements, EPA New England has issued a number of traditional administrative and judicial penalty actions assessing over $2 million in penalties.

Sanitary Sewer Overflows, USEPA Office of Water
Properly designed, operated, and maintained sanitary sewer systems are meant to collect and transport all of the sewage that flows into them to a publicly owned treatment works (POTW). However, occasional unintentional discharges of raw sewage from municipal sanitary sewers occur in almost every system. These types of discharges are called sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). SSOs have a variety of causes, including but not limited to severe weather, improper system operation and maintenance, and vandalism. EPA estimates that there are at least 40,000 SSOs each year. The untreated sewage from these overflows can contaminate our waters, causing serious water quality problems. It can also back-up into basements, causing property damage and threatening public health.

Clean Water Act, National Enforcement Programs, USEPA Compliance and Enforcement
EPA's Clean Water Act (CWA) enforcement programs are designed to protect and improve the quality of the nation's waters. SSOs are overflows or releases from sanitary sewer systems and are illegal under the Clean Water Act.

Preventing Backup of Municipal Sewage into Basements, USEPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Enforcement Alert, September 2006 (PDF) (4 pp, 1.2 MB, about PDF)
Raw or partially treated sewage can back up through pipes into businesses and homes. Learn more about the causes of such backups and what to do if you encounter a suspected backup.

EPA Strategically Addressing Raw Sewage Discharges Across Nation to Protect Public, Environment, USEPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Enforcement Alert, March 2003 (PDF) (4 pp, 112 K, about PDF)
A summary of EPA enforcement and compliance assistance tools used to address SSOs.