Improvements End DEQ Case

By Local Report    
Saturday, 25 February 2006
The City of Tulsa Public Works Department has received official notice from the State Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) that all tasks required by state and federal administrative and consent orders dating back to the 1980s have been completed and the Consent Order Case has been closed.

The Consent order required that capacities be expanded and deficiencies corrected in the City’s sewage collection and treatment systems. The resulting work, which began in the early 1990s and required dedicated funds from 5-year and 15-year capital improvement plans, cost more than $491 million.
“This is an important milestone for Tulsa,” said Public Works Director Charles Hardt. “It shows that we are meeting the federal and state standards that both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) set out for us when these orders were issued. It demonstrates that we have eliminated many of the problems and greatly reduced the number of sewage backups and overflows in the City’s system.”

Hardt emphasized that, just because the administrative orders are expiring, the City can’t let down its guard or discontinue the programs that have resulted in improvements. Constant monitoring of the City’s 1,860 miles of sewer lines, and detection of leaks in private lines feeding into the public system, must continue, he said.

The City’s efforts to make the mandated sewer system improvements included:
·  Completing 233 wastewater capital projects including collection systems, overflow basins and treatment facilities.
·  Making a comprehensive study of the wastewater system.
·  Making 15 Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Surveys including pipe & manhole inspections and sealing, smoke and dye testing, flow monitoring, hydraulic modeling, and more.
·  Installing more than 70 permanent flow monitors that provide data used to prioritize work areas.
·  Creating 5-year and 15-year capital improvement plans with dedicated funds for collection system rehabilitation.
·  Expanding capacity of treatment plants (now capable of treating 102 million gallons per day).
·  Replacing old sewers.
·  Lining sewer pipes – a cost-effective method that minimizes restoration costs and disruption to traffic and other surface activities.
·   Creating an optional time-payment plan for property owners with sewer line leaks in which the City makes needed repairs to private lines and the customer can pay the cost over an extended period of time as a part of their monthly utility bills.    

The infiltration of rainwater or other surface water into the sewer system contributed heavily to sewer backups in homes and businesses, and greatly increased the volume of material entering treatment plants.  Six flow-equalization (overflow) basins, with a capacity of 134 million gallons, were constructed throughout the city to handle wet-weather overflows.

A 2005 monitoring program showed no overflows.  A 2002 study showed a 95 percent reduction in chronic wet-weather overflows, compared to the average in 1994/95.

Funding for the programs has come from several sources including sanitary sewer fees paid by City utility customers, from sales taxes and from general obligation bonds.

The City has become more pro-active in addressing conditions that caused sewer system problems. One example is the City’s FOG Program. FOG – an acronym for Fats, Oil & Grease – is an on-going educational and enforcement effort aimed at reducing or eliminating sewer line blockages caused by disposal of cooking greases in sanitary sewers. Fats and greases from home and restaurant kitchens can congeal in the sewer lines to create large blockages.

The City is also implementing a Capacity, Management, Operations and Maintenance (CMOM) program that includes monitoring and analyzing flows, hydraulic modeling, on-going cleaning and identification, and prioritization of needed projects.

"Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA) members are committed to proactively maintaining the City’s sewer infrastructure and wastewater treatment plants in a manner that will prevent State and federal administrative orders and consent decrees in the future,” said TMUA member Jim Cameron   “We will continue partnering with ODEQ and EPA to reach forthcoming goals as Tulsa strives to become the national model for improvement of its wastewater infrastructure.”
Last Updated ( Saturday, 25 February 2006 )