Sanitary Sewer Overflow Initiative
What is the Sanitary Sewer Overflow Initiative?
The Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Initiative is a voluntary program initiated in 2004 in an effort to address an increase in SSOs due to aging collection systems throughout the state and encourage corrective action before there is harm to human health and safety or the environment.
What is an SSO?
An SSO is a type of unauthorized discharge of untreated or partially treated wastewater from a collection system or its components (e.g., a manhole, lift station, or cleanout) before it reaches a wastewater treatment facility.
Collection systems that are properly designed, operated, and maintained will collect and transport all of the sewage and industrial wastewater that flow into them to a facility for appropriate treatment. However, SSOs can occur if there is significant inflow/infiltration, the collection system is poorly operated and maintained, or the system lacks adequate capacity to collect or store flows for treatment, or to treat them.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements?
- The SSO Initiative is open to publicly owned permitted facilities and subscribers. A permitted facility is the holder of a water quality permit issued by the TCEQ for the discharge of treated wastewater. A subscriber is any municipality acting as a waste contributor or customer of a permitted facility.
- Systems currently under formal enforcement action for SSOs are not eligible to participate in the initiative.
- Confirmed participants are required to maintain compliance with the terms and conditions in the Notice of Intent to Participate in the SSO Initiative in order to maintain eligibility.
What are the Benefits of Participating?
- A participating system will not be subject to formal enforcement by TCEQ for most continuing SSO violations, as long as the overflows are addressed by the SSO plan. Note: Participation in the TCEQ’s SSO Initiative does not preclude federal enforcement action by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Participation allows the municipality to direct resources towards corrective actions rather than having to pay penalties associated with an enforcement order in addition to the corrective actions.
- Participation ensures that SSOs addressed by the SSO plan will not affect the system’s compliance-history rating.
How Do I Join the Sanitary Sewer Overflow Initiative?
The TCEQ regional staff may identify some facilities that are good candidates for participation during on-site compliance investigations or file-review investigations. However, municipalities may also elect to participate, and, in those cases, should contact the local regional office to discuss that option.
Where Can I Find More Information?
You can find more detailed information about the SSO Initiative in the TCEQ’s Sanitary Sewer Overflow Initiative—Information for Prospective Participants (publication GI-389). If you are interested in learning more, please contact your local Regional Office to discuss the process for joining.
- Sanitary Sewer Overflow Agreement Annual Progress Report (TCEQ-20595) (PDF). Identifies the required and optional information to be included in an SSO Plan and in the annual progress report required to be submitted to TCEQ under the Agreement
- Notice of Intent to Participate in the Sanitary Sewer Overflow Initiative (TCEQ-20630)
- Water Quality Noncompliance Notification (TCEQ-00501) (PDF)
- Accidental Discharge or Spill Monthly Summary Form (TCEQ-20756) (DOCX)
- Resources for Texas Water and Wastewater Utilities (RG 220)
- Texas Water Infrastructure Coordination Committee
Resources for Developing an SSO Plan
- Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG). Proper disposal keeps FOG out of sewers and septic systems and avoids plumbing emergencies.
- Fats, Oils, and Grease Best Management Practices Manual. Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies
- EPA Guide for Evaluating Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance (CMOM) Programs at Sanitary Sewer Collection Systems
- EPA Sanitary Sewer Overflow Analysis and Planning Toolbox
- EPA Asset Management for Sewer Collection Systems
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection: Guidelines for Performing Infiltration/Inflow Analyses and Sanitary System Evaluation Survey