The City of Jeffersonville is among 772 communities in the United States — 107 of which are located in Indiana — which suffers from combined sewer overflows.

Combined sewers carry sanitary and storm water in the same pipes. In dry conditions or when there is light precipitation, this isn’t necessarily a problem. But when there are moderate to heavy rainfalls or snow melts, the sewer lines cannot handle all of the liquids that need to be transported to the wastewater treatment plant and they overflow into nearby waterways. In Jeffersonville’s case, the combined sewer overflows affect the Ohio River and Cane Run.

Combined sewer overflows, also known as CSOs, are generally a violation of the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is enforcing the Clean Water Act across the U.S. by seeking consent decrees with or filing civil lawsuits against communities with combined sewer overflows.

On Sunday, June 13, 2010, The Courier-Journal published an article on sewer rates in Louisville, which focuses on Louisville’s Metropolitan Sewer District, but provides some solid background on what’s happening with sewer rates nationally. This can help explain why Jeffersonville’s sewer rates have increased 105%, following last year’s consent decree for combined sewer overflows between the Jeffersonville Sanitary Sewer Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Justice and Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plan that is currently under EPA review will require that Jeffersonville spend between $90 million and $120 million through 2020 or 2025 to reduce sewer overflows into the Ohio River and other local waterways.

Some other notable cities with combined sewer overflows include:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Evansville, Indiana
  • Fort Wright, Kentucky
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • King County (Seattle), Washington
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Portland, Oregon