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Environmental Enforcement: EPA Moves to Intervene in Sewer Lawsuit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has filed a Motion to Intervene in U.S. District Court in a case against the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) for violations of the Clean Water Act.  The EPA is seeking to join a case filed earlier this year by the Conservation Law Foundation.

The complaint included with EPA’s motion alleges violations of the Clean Water Act involving the discharge of raw sewage and other pollutants to the Mystic River, Charles River, Neponset River, and other rivers and streams tributary to Boston Harbor.  According to the allegations, these discharges have occurred through both illegal sewer connections to the BWSC storm drain system and Sanitary Sewer Overflows (“SSOs”) that discharge to the BWSC storm drain system or directly to local surface waters.

In addition, the complaint alleges BWSC has failed to meet or implement a number of requirements of BWSC’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (“MS4”) Phase I Permit issued in 1999, including the identification and expeditious removal of illicit discharges of sewage to the BWSC storm drain system, violations of water quality standards in its storm water discharges, and the failure to implement a number of programs required by the Phase I MS4 Permit, such as a program to inspect storm water controls at construction sites throughout the City of Boston.

EPA is joining the Conservation Law Foundation in seeking injunctive relief that would force BWSC to identify and remove all illicit connections, implement storm water monitoring to mitigate concentrations of pollutants to the maximum extent practicable, establish programs necessary to meet permit conditions, and take actions necessary to mitigate and prevent SSOs.

The Conservation Law Foundation complaint filed earlier this year, together with field work conducted by EPA staff, spurred EPA to further  investigate the organization’s claims, and subsequently intervene in the lawsuit.

In addition to the requested injunctive relief, the complaint seeks civil penalties for BWSC’s alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

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