MASS RIVERS, TRWA AND EIGHT OTHER GROUPS SUE EPA OVER STORMWATER DELAY

On September 25th The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, Taunton River Watershed Alliance (TRWA), and eight other watershed groups from across the state filed suit in Boston’s federal district court asking the court to vacate EPA’s one-year delay in implementing the state’s new stormwater permit.  Joining Mass Rivers and TRWA were watershed groups representing the Connecticut; Mystic; Merrimack; Ipswich; North and South; Jones; Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord; and Neponset Rivers.

“Stormwater is the state’s number one pollution problem,” said Mass Rivers Executive Director Julia Blatt, “and this permit is a product of extensive public input as well as eight long years of negotiation among the state DEP, the EPA, and many stakeholders.  The EPA pulled the rug out from under the state’s pollution control efforts by announcing this delay two days before the effective date.”

The permit, known as the “MS4,” for small “municipal separate storm sewer systems,” regulates stormwater pollution under the federal Clean Water Act.  Issued jointly by the EPA and MassDEP, it covers 260 entities in Massachusetts, including municipalities and federal and state facilities.  Stormwater, which runs off land, roads and buildings when it rains, carries fertilizer pollution, harmful bacteria, oil, gas, toxic metals, and salt into nearby waterways.

The largest water quality problems in the Taunton River watershed are algae blooms from too much nutrients and depleted summer river flows which are both made worse by poorly managed stormwater runoff.  The obsolete 2003 EPA stormwater permit EPA’s action leaves in place is outdated, and does a poor job protecting the environment from stormwater’s problems.  The new MS4 permit has more specific conditions requiring towns to create a stormwater management plan and directs them to map their stormwater collection systems, monitor outfall pipes, and prioritize cleanup of the most pressing problems, such as the discharge of untreated sewage into nearby waterways via stormdrains.  The permit also requires public outreach, stormwater recharge, and “good housekeeping” practices such as storm drain cleaning and street sweeping as well as control of stormwater from new development and redevelopment.

The environmental groups are worried that the permit could be delayed much longer than one year.  This permit was eight years in the making and long overdue.  The groups believe further delay of the permit does not make any sense and that we need this permit for a healthy environment and safe recreation.

The river groups are represented by Kevin Cassidy of Earthrise Law Center and Access to Justice Fellow Irene C. Freidel.  Click here to see the filed complaint.

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