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Release Date: 09/28/1998
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, (617-918-1008)

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a first-of- its-kind "pollutant trading" permit for an office building complex in Wayland. The permit will allow the developer to facilitate the repair of leaking septic systems on two-dozen neighboring properties instead of installing more expensive wastewater controls at the office building, thereby lowering the developer's costs while achieving three times the environmental benefit.

The discharge permit involves a unique collaboration between EPA; Congress Group Ventures, which is redeveloping a former Raytheon manufacturing facility in Wayland; and the Town of Wayland, which is trying to find efficient ways to reduce bacterial pollution into the Sudbury River, much of which is coming from outdated septic systems.

When the developer first approached EPA last year about obtaining a wastewater discharge permit for its office complex, EPA said it would not be possible because the Sudbury River, which would receive the wastewater, was already too degraded. The law requires that the river meet fishable/swimmable water quality standards, which it does not presently do. (Specifically, algal blooms and abundant levels of nuisance aquatic weeds have been observed in the Sudbury, indicating bacteria-induced eutrophication.)

EPA's New England Administrator John P. DeVillars and his staff said they would consider the permit, however, if the developer would be willing to dramatically reduce phosphorus discharges into the river compared to Raytheon's discharges under a previous permit - and would be willing to treat other sources of phosphorus from dozens of businesses and homes along Route 20 that have failing and inadequate septic systems.

After extensive negotiations between EPA, the developer and Wayland officials, an agreement was reached. The discharge permit - the first of its kind in New England - was approved by the EPA's New England Office earlier this month.

"The traditional approach meant no development, no job creation and no tax revenues to the town and state. And it meant that a responsible developer would have been plum out of luck," DeVillars said. "But by dint of some creative thinking and hard work, the development is going forward and we're achieving three times the environmental benefit at a substantially reduced cost. This is an example of regulatory flexibility at its best. It's economic growth accomplished in an environmentally-sound and sophisticated way."

"I am very pleased with the mutual cooperation between EPA and the state agencies on this permit and by the inclusive nature of the process by reaching out to various advocacy groups and interest groups," said Dean Stratouly, president of Congress Group Ventures. "The end result is a unique and creative solution for addressing a series of complicated problems. I'm especially pleased that we're going to be able to ultimately improve the water quality of the river."

"This permit helps us achieve a win-win situation," added Lana Carlsson-Irwin, chairperson of the Wayland Wastewater Management District Commission, which helped negotiate the permit. "It will allow participating property owners to address their wastewater disposal problems in a manner that is economically, aesthetically and environmentally sound. By utilizing the existing treatment plant, we've also found a neighborhood-based solution for addressing an important problem in the central business district, which lies in the floodplain."

The agency's decision clears the way for the developer to discharge wastewater into the Sudbury River - but only on the condition that the on-site wastewater facility offset the direct pollutant loading into the river by treating wastewater from numerous failing and inadequate septic systems near the scenic river.

The discharge permit was based on a 3 to 1 trading ratio - meaning that for every pound of phosphorus that the developer discharges, it must eliminate at least three pounds of phosphorous from nonpoint pollution sources in the watershed. In real terms, the wastewater plant will be allowed to directly discharge .125 pounds per day of phosphorus, while at the same time reducing nonpoint-source phosphorus loadings into the watershed by at least .375 pounds per day.

Phosphorus is a nutrient-rich byproduct of fertilizers, detergents and other organic waste materials, including sanitary wastewater. Excessive amounts of phosphorus in water bodies will cause excessive algal growth and oxygen depletion which, in turn, have detrimental effects on fish and other aquatic life.

The permit requires that the on-site waste treatment facility handle a minimum of 4,740 gallons per day - and up to a maximum of 20,000 gallons a day - of wastewater from failing or inadequate septic systems. In order for that to happen, the failing septic systems will need to be tied into a new sewer line that will be built in downtown Wayland. The work of identifying those failing systems and building the sewer line will be done by the Town of Wayland. The goal is to achieve this by next year. The permit requires that the sewer connections be in place within two years. "There are all kinds of businesses and homes that have already been identified as high priorities for being tied-in," said Jane Downing, director of EPA's Massachusetts Program who helped negotiate the permit. "And we're hopeful it won't be long before the wastewater plant is handling the 20,000-gallon-a day maximum that the permit allows for from nonpoint sources."

More than two-dozen businesses, homes and town buildings are expected to be tied into the wastewater plant once the project is completed.

The discharge permit also requires an overall 80 percent reduction in phosphorus discharges compared to the previous permit issued to Raytheon. The permit further requires the developer to complete a special technology study and implement recommendations for even further reductions. The wastewater plant's total capacity is 65,000 gallons a day.