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Region 1: EPA New England

Charles River Enforcement/Assistance

An organizing principle of EPA's Clean Charles Initiative is that it is problem-solving based. That means that EPA has identified a problem and used a variety of tools to produce results. Below is a listing of the various tools we employed to reduce contaminant loads to the Charles:


  • EPA provided technical assistance through the Center for Watershed Protection to all lower Charles communities developing stormwater management plans (2000);
  • EPA assistance team visited 92 auto care facilities closest to the river. Sent information brochures to 900+ auto care facilities in watershed (1998);
  • EPA provided oil pollution prevention grant to CRWA (1988) ($25K).
  • Innovative Stormwater “Best Management Practices” trade show (1988);


EPA brought the following enforcement actions aimed at reducing or preventing discharges to the Charles:

  • Settlement between EPA, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and MWRA to reduce CSO's into the Charles River (2006)
  • EPA case against NSTAR for oil discharges to Charles (2003)
  • EPA case against MIT for RCRA and air violations (2001)
  • EPA coordinated inspection of Underground storage tanks at all single wall tanks within 1000 feet of river: several notices issued (1998)
  • Enforcement Sweep: Warning to 200 facilities with follow up inspections (1998);
  • EPA case against BU for oil spill violations (1997)
  • EPA issued orders to municipalities in 1995 and 2004 to remove illicit discharges: removed over 1 million gallons of illicit discharges to Charles since 1995
  • EPA case against MWRA: 90% reduction in CSO bacteria loads to Charles (from 1.7 billion gallons/year to 160 million gallons/year (1983)

Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEP)

EPA has included the following supplemental environmental projects in enforcement actions to benefit the Charles in various ways, as described:

  • NSTAR SEP: Installed rainwater recovery and reuse system at Harvard Vehicle Washing Facility (2004)
  • MIT SEP: Groundwater detention /treatment at Strata Center reduces flowrate 50%; solids 90% (2001)
  • MIT SEP: Three urban education programs (2001)
  • MIT SEP: Virtual campus environmental management program: see website for campus consortium for environmental excellence (2001)
  • Genzyme SEP: Partnered with CRWA for water quality sampling on Charles; Boston University SEP: conducted oil remediation at site; Env. Mgmt. Systems and stormwater research (1999)


EPA issued permits that address bacterial, thermal, nutrient and other discharges to the Charles:

Innovative Tools to Further Protect the Charles River

  • Public Education, 1997-current: EPA provided financial support for CRWA flagging project, which posts flags at 9 boating facilities indicating whether river is safe for boating;
  • Charlescast Project: EPA supported Tufts/CRWA project to build model using real time data to predict water quality in the Charles. Model predicts whether boating standards will be met with 92% accuracy and info is posted on CRWA and Boston Globe websites.

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