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EPA Orders Massachusetts Town to Fix Harmful Sewage Overflows

Release Date: 03/10/2008
Contact Information: Paula Ballentine - (617) 918-1027

(Boston—March 10, 2008) EPA has ordered the town of Milford, Massachusetts to take steps to stop harmful sewage overflows from discharging from the Town’s sewer pipes onto streets and into buildings and surface waters, including tributaries of the Blackstone River and Charles River.

Since January 1, 2001, the Town has had more than 100 incidents of overflows from its sanitary sewer system. When a sanitary sewer overflow, or “SSO,” occurs, raw sewage can be released from the wastewater collection system directly, or indirectly through storm drains, to surface waters or onto streets, where it can pose a direct public health risk. Sewage overflows can also back up into homes and other buildings, posing public health risks and causing property damage.Untreated sanitary sewage contains a variety of pollutants, including pathogens, suspended solids, nutrients, toxic metals and organic compounds that can cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards in the receiving waters. The pathogens present a health risk to persons who come into contact with contaminated water; and nutrients contribute to excessive algae and plant growth in the Charles River.

EPA’s Administrative Order requires the Town to perform a system assessment, prepare a plan to remedy any deficiencies found, and develop a long-term preventative maintenance program.

“This Order is part of EPA’s New England’s effort to combat the serious water quality problems caused by sanitary sewer overflows in the region,” said EPA Regional Administrator Robert Varney. “Addressing SSOs will help ensure the long-term vitality and health of one of the region’s most valuable resources -- its rivers, streams and coastal waters.”

Sanitary sewer overflows are caused by breakdowns in the pipes, pumps and other equipment that municipalities and wastewater utilities use to collect and transport sewage to wastewater treatment plants. The unlawful discharges are often the result of: blockages caused by, among other things, grease buildup; structural, mechanical or electrical failures; and excess flows that enter wastewater collection systems. Implementation of effective preventative maintenance programs has been shown to significantly reduce the frequency and volume of these discharges.

EPA has taken enforcement actions in other New England states for sanitary sewer overflows, including the issuance of a number of Administrative Orders in Rhode Island.

EPA’s Assistance and Pollution Prevention Office has tools available to help communities evaluate their collection systems and develop preventative maintenance plans. For further information, go to EPA New England’s web site at which provides more information on preventing SSOs, including links to future workshop information.
More information:

EPA’s efforts to eliminate SSOs in New England (
Sustainable water infrastructure (