Enforcement and Assistance in New England
Over the past year, our enforcement program has taken a number of actions that will result in dramatic improvements to New England’s waters. We have tackled some of the most serious environmental problems in the region, and are using a full array of tools – including enforcement actions and stringent permit requirements – to restore water quality. Some of these actions include:
Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in Maine: The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program regulates the discharge of pollutants from point sources to waters of the United States. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are point sources, as defined by the Clean Water Act, because manure and other pollution that run off farms can contaminate streams, lakes and ponds with excess nutrients and bacteria. In 2006, we expanded our outreach and inspection coverage to New England CAFOs. With aerial surveillance and a ground investigation, state and federal inspectors documented water pollution from a dairy farm in Maine. As a result, the farm submitted necessary information and the State of Maine was able to issue the state’s first CAFO NPDES permit.
Boston Harbor/Charles River: On April 27, 2006, the U.S. District Court approved a settlement between the EPA and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) that requires dramatic reductions of combined sewer overflows to the Charles River. This follows the District Court’s order of June 30, 2005 that will virtually eliminate combined sewer overflows (CSOs) to Boston beaches. These two actions cap a 20-year cleanup effort that is transforming Boston Harbor – once one of the most polluted harbors in the country – into a model for urban waters.
The 2005 court order addresses a string of beaches along the South Boston peninsula, which are now closed frequently each summer. Boston’s combined sewer and storm drainage system overflows during heavy rains as often as 20 times per year. After a previous plan to address this problem was stalled by political opposition, lengthy negotiations produced an agreement to construct a storage tunnel that will prevent these overflows up to the 25-year storm. Construction will be completed by May 2011 at a cost of approximately $245 million.
A unique feature of the agreement is that it also requires the capture of separate storm water runoff (up to a five-year storm event). As a result, these beaches will be virtually free from the effects of urban runoff, making them an outstanding natural resource for the urban population of Boston.
The April 27, 2006 order includes further reductions in storm water discharges to the Charles River, where earlier agreements have already reduced overflow volumes from 1.7 billion gallons in 1988 to roughly 30 million gallons in an average year. The new agreement will require further reductions to less than eight million gallons per year, for a total reduction of more than 99.5% in this widely-used urban river.
Gloucester, Massachusetts: On September 8, 2005, the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts finalized a settlement between EPA and the City of Gloucester that will result in a 99% reduction in the volume of Gloucester’s combined sewer overflow discharges. Gloucester’s sewage treatment system includes six overflow points that discharge CSOs up to 53 times a year. In a typical year, these discharges total approximately 25 million gallons of mixed sewage and storm water.
Gloucester agreed to implement a long term control plan that will reduce overflows from four of its CSO discharge locations to one or less in a typical year, and reduce overflows from the remaining discharge locations to two or fewer in a typical year. Overflow volumes are expected to be reduced from 25 million gallons to less than 290,000 gallons annually.
Chicopee, Massachusetts: Under the terms of a Consent Decree filed in federal court, the City of Chicopee, Massachusetts will upgrade its sewer system to abate pollutant discharges from its combined sewer overflows and pay a fine of $115,000. For many years, the City of Chicopee’s sewage system has resulted in discharges of untreated sewage and storm water into the Chicopee and Connecticut rivers. Under the Agreement, the City will take actions to reduce discharges of untreated CSOs that will enhance fishing and recreational opportunities in the two rivers, and also address longstanding problems in some Chicopee neighborhoods that have suffered from sewer backups.
The Consent Decree requires Chicopee to separate sewage collection pipes from the municipal storm water collection system, and to modify sewer structures or provide treatment of sewer discharges in accordance with short-term and long-term schedules – the latter of which extend over a 20 year period. Recognizing the importance and need to complete the sewer upgrades, the City has already begun to implement the first phase of the CSO abatement work, which is expected to cost more than $35 million and reduce the volume of untreated CSO discharges by 56 percent. Under the agreement, the City will develop and implement a long-term plan for addressing the remaining CSO discharges, which will be reviewed and approved by EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
Brockton, Massachusetts: On August 2, 2006, the City of Brockton agreed to invest $86 million to improve its sewage treatment system and pay a civil fine to resolve allegations that the system violated its permitted discharge limits for various pollutants including biological oxygen demand, total suspended solids, phosphorous, total residual chlorine, fecal coliform, and ammonia. The City has also agreed to undertake three Supplemental Environmental Projects that include a post-upgrade water quality assessment of the Salisbury Plain River; contracting for a study to investigate Region-wide alternatives for wastewater treatment; and a pilot program to test for lead in drinking water at the City’s public schools.
By agreeing to assess the water quality of the river after it completes construction of the upgrade to its treatment plant, the City will be developing valuable data on the health of the river that will enable regulators to better manage this valuable resource. An investigation of wastewater treatment alternatives for southeastern Massachusetts will address concerns raised by other communities in the area looking for ways to dispose of their wastewater in a manner consistent with the state and federal environmental laws. Developing options such as ground discharges and decentralized treatment units will allow for growth in these communities without harming the environment.
Hartford, Connecticut: On May 11, 2006, the United States filed a consent decree in federal court, which requires Hartford’s Metropolitan District Commission (“MDC”) to address unpermitted sanitary sewer overflows (“SSOs”) into the Connecticut River and its tributaries. Over the past five years, the MDC has discharged approximately 120 million gallons of untreated sewage from eight unpermitted overflow points in Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, West Hartford and Wethersfield, Connecticut. These discharges contain raw sewage that can carry bacteria, viruses and other organisms that can cause life-threatening ailments.
The MDC will completely eliminate discharges from these structural SSO locations over the next 7 to12 years at an estimated cost of $120 million. In addition, the MDC will implement a Capacity, Management, Operation and Maintenance Program; implement a Long-Term Preventative Maintenance Program; and conduct modeling, investigations, and assessments necessary to determine how to best eliminate the structural SSOs and how to reduce extraneous flow entering the MDC’s sanitary collection system.