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EPA Addresses Water Quality Issues in Gloucester

Release Date: 11/05/2010
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Nov. 5, 2010) – In order to advance healthy water quality in the coastal areas of Cape Ann near the City of Gloucester, EPA is proposing a draft decision to deny the extension of a waiver of Clean Water Act requirements that has allowed the City to discharge wastewater receiving only primary treatment from its wastewater treatment facility into Massachusetts Bay.

Gloucester has applied to EPA for reissuance of a waiver of Clean Water Act secondary treatment requirements, which would authorize continued discharge or primary effluent from the Gloucester Water Pollution Control Facility to Massachusetts Bay. Gloucester is the only major discharger in Massachusetts that currently holds such a waiver.

EPA is releasing for public review and comment its draft intention to deny this waiver request and issue a permit with secondary treatment-based limits. EPA will accept comments from the public on this proposal for 30 days, ending on Dec. 4, 2010.

“We have been working closely with the City of Gloucester to address water quality issues in the community, and the City has demonstrated its commitment to finding workable solutions,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “These are difficult issues that will require hard work over many years, and I am hopeful that we are on the right track to achieve a cleaner environment for Gloucester residents and for Massachusetts Bay.”

The current permit has been in effect since 2001. The upgrade from primary to secondary treatment at the Gloucester Water Pollution Control Facility will require extensive planning and design, and will also require the commitment of significant financial resources. EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) are moving forward with the new draft permit recognizing that EPA and MassDEP will need to work with the City to establish a reasonable compliance schedule for the treatment plant upgrade.

The Gloucester discharge is to Massachusetts Bay, within the North Shore Ocean Sanctuary, as established by the Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries Act. The Commonwealth has designated the water as “Class SA,” the highest of the three marine water quality classifications.

The reason for the waiver denial is a failure to meet the current permit limits, including “whole effluent toxicity” (a measure of the toxicity of the effluent on living organisms), oil and grease, and fecal coliform bacteria.

More information:

- Draft permit and Fact sheet (

- General info on NPDES permits (

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