Federal and state environmental regulators have agreed to extend a deadline for Evansville to develop a plan to improve its sewer systems.

The new consent decree gives the city two more years to develop an integrated plan for upgrades to both its separate sanitary sewer system and the combined system, and 19.5 to 25 years to make the improvements.

The project is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Many cities across the country are being required to make costly improvements to aging sewer systems due to federal environmental mandates.

The U.S. Department of Justice had sued Evansville in September 2009 for violating the Clean Water Act and ordered the city to develop a plan within six months and complete sewer improvements within the next 10 years.

“We never disagreed that there was a need to make upgrades to our system to address the decades-old problem of sewage overflowing from our combined sewer system during rain events,” Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel said in a press release. “But we strongly disagreed with the terms under which DOJ sought to force us to make those improvements. By taking a hard line and fighting for terms that are fair, we now have a deal that makes sense for Evansville.”

The city is now trying to recover its legal costs from negotiating the new agreement from Environmental Management Corp., which operated the city’s sewer system until earlier this year.

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