msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/6/2004 4:10:41 PM ET 2004-08-06T20:10:41

The city of Los Angeles has agreed to a $2 billion settlement under which it will rebuild at least 488 miles of sewer lines, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday.

The city also agreed to clean 2,800 miles of sewers annually, enhance its program to control restaurant grease discharges, increase the sewage system's capacity and plan for future expansion.

The agreement settles a complaint made by Santa Monica Baykeeper, an environmental group that monitors water quality in the Santa Monica and San Pedro Bays of Southern California.

"This is a historic moment in Santa Monica Baykeeper's fight for clean water,” Tracy Egoscue, executive director of Santa Monica Baykeeper, said in a statement announcing the settlement. "Baykeeper supports the leadership of the city of Los Angeles and their commitment to reduce sewage spills in our community.”

Los Angeles must also pay $1.6 million to the U.S. Treasury and a regional water quality control board to settle civil penalty claims, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency said.

The regional board will direct its portion of the funds, or $800,000, to local environmental improvement projects that the city will fund, federal officials said.

Los Angeles operates one of the largest sewage collection systems in the country with 6,500 miles of sewer lines. Since 1994, the city has experienced more than 4,500 spills, according to federal officials.

A spokeswoman for Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn said the city will not sell bonds to pay for sewer upgrade projects. All funds will come from increased sewer rates.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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