Federal and state environmental agencies filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city of Bangor on Wednesday as a formal step toward stopping pollution that overflows from the city’s wastewater collection system into the Penobscot River and Kenduskeag Stream.

The lawsuit filed by attorneys on behalf of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection aims to get a proposed agreement between the agencies and Bangor officials to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. The city could face $37,500 in civil penalties for each day it’s found to be in violation since Jan. 12, 2009.

Accompanying the lawsuit, lawyers included a proposed consent decree that would have to be vetted before the public and approved by a judge to settle the case. The consent decree, which was signed on Aug. 11 by Bangor City Manager Catherine Conlow and representatives for the environmental agencies, includes proposed upgrades to Bangor’s wastewater and storm water infrastructure that the city would have to complete within deadlines.

The lawsuit is the latest in years of back and forth between the city and the environmental agencies to improve Bangor’s stormwater and wastewater collection systems that include five pump stations and 2,667 manholes that access 165 miles of pipe, most of which are maintained by the city.

“Between 2010 and the present, the city has reported hundreds of (combined sewer overflow) discharges, with a total discharge volume of at least 725 million gallon of untreated sanitary and storm water into the Penobscot River or the Kenduskeag Stream,” attorneys John Cruden and Laura Rowley of the U.S. Department of Justice said in the 14-page complaint.

Those discharges included untreated sewage and other pollutants, such as industrial waste, oils and pesticides that are hazardous or toxic to fish and other aquatic life, the lawsuit states.


“On at least 21 different occasions between June 2010 and the present, Bangor has had unauthorized overflows of sanitary sewage and other pollutants from various components of the collection system to the Penobscot River or Kenduskeag Stream or their tributaries,” the complaint states.

Before the proposed consent decree could be approved, the sides agreed that the state must publish it in the Bangor Daily News and solicit public comment for 30 days. Those public comments and responses must then be filed with the court, where the federal and state governments could file a motion to have a judge allow them to enter the consent decree if they find “that settlement is in the public interest,” according to Wednesday’s court filings.

Conlow did not return a phone message seeking comment.

David Madore, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, did not return a call.

Rowley, reached by phone in Washington, D.C., declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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