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SAWS, city preparing for EPA fines

EPA expected to hand down fines, mandates for overflows

SAN ANTONIO - For the last five years, the Environmental Protection Agency has kept a close eye on the San Antonio Water System -- especially when it comes to any leaks or sewer overflows.

"We've been in discussions with them since that time trying to work out how that issue can be improved," said Greg Flores, VP of Communications for SAWS.

On Wednesday, SAWS representatives met with city council members in closed session to discuss potential fines and mandates the EPA is expected to hand out by the end of 2012.

Often, fines that reach into the millions of dollars are lowered drastically as long as the fined water system follows mandates to decrease overflows.

SAWS averages seven overflows for every 100 miles of pipeline, which Flores said is right at the EPA's average.

"We have doubled our efforts in cleaning our sewer lines, televising sewer lines, sending cameras down in there to see where the clogs are or where there may be any cracks in the pipes," said Flores. "That has cost some money and that's why sewer bills have gone up in the last several years and we anticipate those costs will continue to rise into the future."

Aging infrastructure has lead to some problems but Flores said 75 percent of overflows are caused by debris and grease. SAWS has promoted awareness through its "Grease Monster" campaign for several years hoping to lower its impact pipe problems.

"It's going to take a while to do all this maintenance and public awareness to get people to help us to keep grease out of the system," said Flores.

The EPA would not comment on the investigation which it said was still ongoing. It also did not give a timeline for a decision.


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