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Sanitary Sewer Overflow Initiative

Addresses an increase in the number of overflows. Encourages corrective action before there is harm to human health and safety or the environment.

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.

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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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 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.

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.

More detailed information about the SSO Initiative can be found in 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.