The City of Dubuque has reached an agreement with state and federal officials over improvements to its sewage system to prevent overflows. Environmental Protection Agency spokesman, Chris Whitley, says the proposal includes a civil penalty.

Whitley says the settlement calls for a $205,000 civil penalty that’ll be split between the federal and state government. Dubuque has also agreed to spend some $3-million dollars to correct deficiencies in its sewer system. Whitley says part of the proposal calls on the city to spend $260,000 to reconstruct four alleys in the downtown area using permeable pavement.

He says rain water would flow off the streets and into the sewer system and that would put more burden on the wasterwater plant. Whitley says the permeable pavement allows the water to flow into the ground and it doesn’t have to be treated before it flows into the water table.

The E.P.A. says Dubuque has had a series of problems with its sewage system that include approximately 39 sewer overflows which occurred between 2002 and 2007; approximately 687 violations of sewage, residual chlorine and other problems in the levels of wastewater discharge between 2002 and 2007.

The agency said audits in 2005 and 2007 found that Dubuque failed to issue permits to industrial users of its water pollution control plant, failed to take enforcement actions against industrial users that violated terms of their city-issued permits, and failed to follow sampling and reporting requirements of its pretreatment program. Whitley says the city has been working to improve its system.

Whitley says the city has negotiated in good faith and has taken the lead in addressing a number of the issues, and he says that’s why the time span for the improvements is only three years. He says that’s a short amount of time compared to other cities that take 10 to 15 years to improve their systems.

The settlement sets up a series of schedules for the city’s completion of the various projects to improve its sewer system. The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval before it becomes final.