E.P.A. Is Letting Cities Dump More Raw Sewage Into Rivers for Years to Come

Cities large and small have already renegotiated, including Pittsburgh, which got an extra decade to reduce its overflows; Louisville, Ky., which got five additional years; and St. Louis, Mo., which also got an extra five years. Chicopee, Mass., got an extra eight.

Akron, Ohio, has already renegotiated its original 2009 agreement twice, in 2016 and 2019. Officials are now seeking a third amendment, one that would let them avoid building an additional tunnel and other infrastructure that was intended to eliminate overflows completely, according to Ellen Lander Nischt, a spokeswoman for the city.

“It’s a very expensive project for very little environmental benefit,” Ms. Nischt said, asserting that the amounts of raw sewage that would be released without that tunnel wouldn’t cause significant harm.

Mishawaka, Ind., wants permission to scrap a planned storage tunnel. The city, whose current agreement calls for it to stop releasing raw sewage, is also seeking permission for up to nine releases each year, according to Karl Kopec, manager of the municipal wastewater treatment division.

He said the city currently released about 4.2 million gallons of raw sewage annually into the St. Joseph River, down from 300 million gallons in 1990. Eliminating that last 4.2 millions gallons would produce “no measurable improvement in water quality in the river,” Mr. Kopec said.

Mr. Abboud, the E.P.A. spokesman, said the agency sought to ensure that the terms of the renegotiated consent decree were “at least as protective as the original.”