Facility Planning Area Research

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is evaluating the way it defines boundaries for the wastewater treatment areas called Facility Planning Areas (FPAs), with the goal of adopting a watershed-wide planning approach that will broaden the role of stake-holders and governmental bodies and ultimately do away with FPAs as they currently exist.

Originally, Illinois EPA's role in facilities planning was directed by Section 208 of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The FPA process was created largely to satisfy the requirements of the federal Construction Grants Program Under Title II of the CWA. The goals were essentially twofold:

  1. To protect federal investments in wastewater treatment capacity from being duplicated in neighboring communities
  2. To prevent the overextension of the service envelope beyond the needs dictated by the 20-year growth horizon.

Neither the federal program nor any similar state program exist today though Illinois EPA now administers a federal loan program -- the State Revolving Fund -- in which local government entities borrow money at a fixed rate of interest which is then paid back to the Illinois EPA.

The need for FPAs and the FPA process has been questioned for nearly 10 years.

Though the program remains in place today, it is viewed as either inefficient or ineffective in most stakeholder quadrants. Further, while originally established as a tool to assure appropriate expenditure of federal tax dollars (and secondarily offer some protections to water quality), FPA amendments have in recent times become the focal point of local disputes regarding the disposition and future control of new development. The Illinois EPA often finds itself having to resolve these disputes, resulting in a rather significant annual commitment of staff resources.

Faced with questions ranging from how to improve the program through how to eliminate the program, Illinois EPA contracted with Consensus Solutions, Incorporated- an Atlanta based dispute resolution firm - to provide counsel on the future direction of FPAs and the FPA process.