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United States v. Providence, City of

Citation: 10 ELR 20857
No. No. 77-0374, 492 F. Supp. 602/14 ERC 1964/(D.R.I., 05/02/1980)

The court finds the City of Providence in contempt of a consent decree which set dates for its wastewater treatment plant to comply with a national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permit issued under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA). The city was issued an NPDES permit in 1974, setting effluent limitations to provide at least secondary treatment of its wastewater by July 1, 1977 in accord with the FWPCA. When the city was unable to comply with the effluent limits set by the permit, it entered into a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1977, amended in 1978, which set a specific date by which the plant would comply with the permit. The city failed to comply with the terms of the consent decree. The court refuses to grant the city's motion to modify the decree, finding that a consent decree, because it is an agreement between the parties, may be modified only under limited circumstances, which are not met here. The modification proposed by the city would alter rights already accrued at the time of the city's motion. Furthermore, the city has not made a clear showing of changed circumstances which would relieve the city of its obligation to comply with the decree. In conclusion, the court finds the city in civil contempt of the consent decree but allows the city 90 days to achieve compliance.The court does not impose the monetary penalties provided for in the decree, because the movants for the contempt finding were not party to the original consent decree.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Everett C. Sammartino, Ass't U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 1401, Providence RI 02901
(401) 528-4311

Raymond W. Mushal
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2735

R. Daniel Prentiss, Chief Legal Counsel
Department of Environmental Management
83 Park St., Providence RI 02903
(401) 277-2771

Daniel J. Schatz, Special Ass't Attorney General
Providence City. Cthse., Providence RI 02903
(401) 831-6850

Counsel for Defendant
Gerard M. Decelles
49 Webasset St., Providence RI 02903
(401) 421-8216