Enforcement and Assistance in New England
In the mid-1980's, EPA joined an enforcement action aimed at the cleanup of Boston Harbor. The case resulted in ending the direct discharge of sewage sludge to the harbor and the construction of a modern sewage treatment plant at Deer Island by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). As a result of the enforcement action, the health of the Harbor has recovered significantly.
However, another serious problem not addressed by these initial efforts was that of combined sewer overflows (CSOs). A large part of Boston’s sewer system is “combined,” meaning that both rainwater and sewage from homes and businesses travel in a single pipe. During heavy rains, the combined flows in the pipes cannot all be transported to the MWRA treatment plant at Deer Island. By 1988, the collection system was discharging, without treatment, an average annual volume of approximately 3.3 billion gallons of this sewage-storm water mixture to the beaches and rivers in the MWRA system. This resulted in the frequent closing of beaches following heavy rainstorms.
After years of effort on the part of EPA New England, the MWRA was placed under a federal court order on June 30, 2005, to virtually eliminate CSOs from the beaches in South Boston by 2011. These beaches are the only natural swimming resource easily accessible to a large number of people, especially the low-income and minority communities in Boston, and have been unsafe for swimming and wading for much of each swimming season. Under the cleanup plan, the MWRA will develop a 20 million gallon storage tunnel and other wet weather control facilities that will eliminate storm water discharges to the beaches for up to the 5-year storm and CSO discharges for up to the 25-year storm. South Boston beaches will eventually be among the cleanest urban beaches in the United States.
Between 2001 and 2004, the Region executed an extensive compliance assistance outreach program targeting the construction industry. We developed written materials, web sites, and other products, as well as conducted numerous workshops to help those involved in construction projects understand how to comply with federal storm water laws. We reached more than 1,700 individuals and more than 3,000 local officials involved in municipal construction or oversight. At the same time, we also took numerous enforcement actions against construction operators at sites being developed for large corporations as well as against a variety of residential developers.
In 2005, EPA’s New England Office began implementing an Expedited Settlement Offer program for storm water violations associated with construction activities. The program is designed to supplement traditional administrative and judicial enforcement options. This program provides EPA with the authority to assess penalties and expedite settlements with developers for violating federal regulations for storm water discharges from their construction sites.
To date, four developers agreed to pay the US Environmental Protection Agency a total of $41,025 in penalties for storm water-related violations that took place at construction projects in Framingham, Swansea and Topsfield, MA, and Hudson, NH. The four cases are as follows:
- McCarron Development Corp. in Lakeville, MA, agreed to pay $14,600 to settle claims it did not apply for the necessary construction permit after starting construction in January 2003 at the Sunnyfield Farms site in Swansea, MA. The project will disturb 30 acres of land. Storm water from the site discharges to adjacent wetlands that drain through a series of brooks and ponds into the Cole River. Inspectors found that the developer had not prepared a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan until September 2004, had failed to conduct and document inspections, and had not provided interim stabilization. Furthermore, storm water plans did not provide dates of major construction milestones. McCarron did not apply for a permit until August of 2004.
- Albermarle Realty Corp. in Natick, MA, agreed to pay $10,700 to settle claims it failed to develop and put in place a storm water plan at a construction site in Framingham that is the future home of 20 single family homes in the Brimstone Estates. The case grew out of an unannounced inspection Nov. 16, 2004. EPA found: the developer had not conducted or documented inspections; the site’s entrance was not stabilized, leaving soils moving off-site and into a public way; catch basins at the site entrance did not have sediment protection barriers; soils for a certain detention basin and an adjacent embankment were exposed; and stabilization measures were not initiated before the ground froze. At the time, four acres of land were disturbed. The project will ultimately disturb 28 acres. Storm water from this site discharge to an adjacent wetland that drains to Hop Brook and ultimately flows into the Sudbury River.
- Thibeault Corporation of New England, based in Londonderry, NH, agreed to pay $8,650 to settle claims it failed to put in place storm water plans required at a construction site in Hudson, NH, that is the future home of 180 buildings and 400 residential units. According to EPA, Thibeault failed to fully develop and implement a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan required by its construction permit at its 60-acre development in Hudson. Thibeault also failed to document that it had conducted “best management practice” inspections at this site. It disturbed about 30 acres of land during construction. Storm water from the site drains into a brook along Route 111 and a pond across Kimball Hill Road. EPA discovered the violations during an August 2004 inspection. The company was also charged with discharging pollutants without a permit.
- Spring-T Realty Trust of Topsfield, MA, agreed to pay $7,075 to settle claims it violated its Storm Water General Permit for Construction Activities at the Skyview Estates construction site in Topsfield, future home of 40 residential, single-family townhouses. EPA’s New England office inspected the site on July 25, 2005 and found 2.5 acres of land had been disturbed. Eventually the project will disturb 21 acres. Storm water from the site discharges to adjacent wetlands, which drain to an unnamed stream that in turn flows into the Putnamville Reservoir. EPA inspectors found that: the developer had not documented inspections; control measures were not installed according to the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (the infiltration ponds were too deep, below the groundwater table); and two drainage ditches were blocked with sediment. Also, the site's storm water plan did not describe controls that will be in place after construction ends, identify operators on the site, provide dates of major construction milestones, or contain a signature or certification.