In March we reported that the city was being investigated by the Department of Justice for violating the Clean Water Act by illegally dumping pollution into the city's stormwater system. Today, the DOJ and Environmental Protection Agency delivered their punishment: Dallas will be spending more than $3.5 million "in a comprehensive effort" to make sure it stops polluting our water, some three years after Environmental Conservation Organization, a locally based nonprofit run by James B. Riley Jr., filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the city was violating federal laws. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, in December 2003; according to two sources interviewed by the Observer in March, it got the feds' attention, and in February 2004 the EPA issued an order claiming the city had failed to properly tend to its stormwater system. So, according to the joint release sent out today by the DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division and the EPA:
"The settlement requires the City to have at least 36 people working in the City's stormwater management section, a 25 percent increase over the number of people on staff when EPA issued its order. The consent decree also requires the City to inspect at least 500 stormwater discharge pipes per year, 500 industrial facilities each year and large construction sites every two weeks. Pursuant to the settlement, the City will prepare a formal environmental management system for 12 city-run facilities, including the city's service centers, and then have a third-party auditor review the management systems. EPA plans to conduct a full audit of the stormwater system within the next one to three years."
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The city will also pay for the construction of two wetland areas: One will be a 60-plus-acre area along the Trinity River, downstream of Sylvan Avenue; the second will be smaller and run along Cedar Creek near the Dallas Zoo, where ECO alleged animal waste was being dumped directly from the animal holding areas into the city's stormwater system. The city also has to pony up $800,000, which a spokeswoman for the DOJ says will be paid to the federal treasury. --Robert Wilonsky