Councilman Howard Shook was the lone vote against approving the settlement, saying he thinks the fine is too small to change the department’s “behavior.”
“This, to me, a staggering breach of the public trust,” Shook said. “I’ve been on Utilities for 14 of my 15 years. I thought I had seen it all. This reads like an indictment.”
After asking if the 111 million gallon discharge was a “typo,” Shook noted that the event was enough to fill 168 Olympic-sized swimming pools with “something other than water.” Shook also said he had hoped Macrina would apologize to residents.
Macrina said the state would have made a settlement offer sooner. But it was delayed because the department was in the midst of negotiating an extension of the federal court order to fix its sewer system.
The commissioner also said the $4 billion federal consent decree has contributed to some of the department’s problems, and getting a 13-year extension to complete the consent decree work will help the department address other needs. She said the city’s attorneys negotiated a good deal with the settlement.
“We have spent 15 years on our consent decree … which only focused on the collection system,” Macrina said. “We need to be able to refocus our budget across departmental needs. We identified numerous areas that we had to upgrade, repair, replace, etc. That is what we have been doing for the past two years.
“It isn’t going to be an overnight task. It has taken two years to get where we are and we have a long way to go. But I don’t have anything to apologize for.”