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Draft Water Permits for Bulk Petroleum Storage Facilities Will Help Protect Chelsea River and Local Communities

EPA will accept public comments for 60 days; will hold virtual public information and public hearing events

02/11/2021
Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – U.S. EPA has issued five draft NPDES permits under the Clean Water Act for bulk petroleum storage facilities located along Chelsea River (also known as Chelsea Creek) for a 60-day public comment period. The draft permits, when finalized, will limit runoff and wastewater that can legally be discharged to Chelsea River, as well as specifying operational measures designed to control pollution from the facilities. The limits and controls on wastewater will ensure that the discharges do not hurt water quality or people's health.

EPA is also issuing an updated environmental justice (EJ) analysis that discusses the potential human health and environmental impacts of the permits on minority and low-income communities. EPA welcomes comment on the EJ analysis during the 60-day public comment period.

The five draft "National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System" (NPDES) permits issued by EPA are for the following facilities: Global Companies, LLC Terminal in Revere; Gulf Oil Terminal in Chelsea; Irving Oil Revere Terminal in Revere; Chelsea Sandwich Terminal in Chelsea; and Sunoco Logistics East Boston Terminal in Boston. A single draft permit will be issued for three Global Companies, LLC facilities in Revere that were previously permitted individually. These facilities receive, store and distribute petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and fuel oil. Petroleum products and additives are primarily received in bulk quantities by ship or barge at marine vessel docks and transferred to aboveground storage tanks located within each facility's tank farm area. The petroleum products are transported off-site typically by tanker truck, ship, or pipeline.

"Implementing these five updated clean water permits will ensure that the facilities manage water runoff using the best methods to protect health and the local environment," said Deb Szaro, acting regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Updating these permits based on sound science will provide tangible environmental and public health benefits to residents of these communities who wish to use Chelsea Creek for recreation."

EPA will also hold two virtual events regarding the draft permits and EJ analysis during the public comment period:
Monday, March 15, 2021, 7PM - Virtual Public Informational Meeting and Q&A. EPA will present an overview of the draft permits and EJ analysis and will respond to clarifying questions from meeting participants.
Monday, March 29, 2021, 7PM - Virtual Formal Public Hearing to Provide Oral Comments. EPA will accept oral comments on the draft permits and EJ analysis from any interested person.

Information on how to join EPA's upcoming virtual events will be available at https://www.epa.gov/npdes-permits/chelsea-river-bulk-petroleum-storage-facilities-npdes-permits.

Chelsea River is an urban tidal river flowing from the mouth of Mill Creek, between Chelsea and Revere, to Boston's Inner Harbor, between East Boston and Chelsea. The river is classified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a Class SB water body, meaning the water quality of the river should be able to support wading, swimming, fishing, boating and a healthy fish and aquatic life community. Chelsea River is considered "impaired" because it is not supporting those uses due to pollutants such as ammonia, dissolved oxygen and petroleum hydrocarbons or conditions such as turbidity, odor and trash/debris.

Once issued as final permits, EPA's draft permits will replace permits that were issued in 2014 and regulate stormwater and non-stormwater discharges from the five facilities. The draft permits further increase protections of water quality and people's health over the existing permits by including strict conditions on the discharge of solids, bacteria, petroleum hydrocarbons and other pollutants to Chelsea River. Most of the discharges from the facilities consist of stormwater that accumulates during a storm event (such as rain or snowmelt) in containment areas around the petroleum storage tanks or from paved surfaces at the facilities. The facilities may also occasionally discharge water used to test pipe and tank integrity (hydrostatic test water) (all 5 terminals), treated groundwater (2 terminals) and/or boiler blowdown (1 terminal).

Before any water is discharged to Chelsea River (and in the case of one outfall located at the Global Companies, LLC facility, Sales Creek), it is treated, at a minimum, through an oil/water separator. The oil/water separator uses gravity to separate floating oil and sludge from the water. The floating oil and/or sludge is removed from the oil/water separator and disposed of off-site. Each draft permit requires the permitted facility to meet the following specific requirements:

  • Properly operate each oil/water separator, not exceeding its numeric design flow rate.
  • Meet numeric effluent limitations for total suspended solids, oil and grease, pH, petroleum hydrocarbons such as benzene, benzo(a)pyrene, and napthalene, metals such as copper and zinc, total residual chlorine, ammonia nitrogen, and fecal coliform.
  • Monitor the effluent regularly for other potential pollutants such as turbidity, chemical oxygen demand, enterococcus, fuel additives and oxygenates, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
  • Conduct annual whole effluent toxicity (WET) testing, chemical testing of Chelsea River and biomonitoring.
  • Implement and annually certify a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan. The plan must specify and document the site-specific Best Management Practices (BMPs) used to control activities and operations that otherwise could contribute pollutants via stormwater discharges from each facility. A list of the required BMPs, including practices relating to major storm events, are included in each draft permit.

Facilities must monitor their discharge on a regular basis, document their control measures, and frequently report those results to EPA. The permits expire after every five years and then must be renewed. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is issuing similar permits to these facilities under the state's Clean Waters Act.

More information on the draft permits and related documents, including English, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Spanish translations of EPA's public notice, EJ analysis, and a plain-language community information sheet: https://www.epa.gov/npdes-permits/chelsea-river-bulk-petroleum-storage-facilities-npdes-permits.