Holyoke, Massachusetts, enters consent decree over CSOs

March 23, 2023
The consent decree will require the city to undertake further sewer separation work to reduce combined sewer overflow discharges, and will also require a $50,000 penalty for pervious alleged permit violations.

The U.S. EPA has announced that it, the Justice Department, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have entered into a consent decree with the City of Holyoke, Massachusetts, to resolve the Clean Water Act and state law.

The proposed consent decree calls for Holyoke to take further remedial action to reduce ongoing sewage discharges into the Connecticut River from the city’s sewer collection and stormwater systems.

As detailed in the consent decree, Holyoke has allegedly discharged pollutants from combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into the Connecticut River, in violation of its federal and state wastewater discharge permits. During periods of heavy rain the wastewater volume can exceed the carrying capacity of the combined sewer system or the treatment facility, resulting in the discharge of untreated wastewater to the Connecticut River. CSO discharges contain raw sewage and are a major water pollution concern.

In full cooperation with federal and state environmental agencies, the city has taken steps in recent years to address these discharges, including finalizing a long-term overflow control plan, separating sewers and eliminating overflows in the Jackson Street area.

The consent decree will require the city to undertake further sewer separation work that will eliminate or reduce additional CSO discharges, as well as requiring a $50,000 penalty for past permit violations resulting in illegal discharges to the Connecticut River.

The city will also conduct sampling of its storm sewer discharges, work to remove illicit connections, and take other actions to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff. The total cost to comply with the proposed consent decree is estimated at approximately $27 million.

“Under the terms of today’s settlement, the City of Holyoke will take additional steps to reduce the amount of untreated sewage discharged during heavy rain events,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The result of this work will be cleaner, safer water for communities that make use of the Connecticut River.”

“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is pleased to enter this settlement agreement with the City of Holyoke to further the city’s work toward the elimination of contaminated discharges to the Connecticut River,” said Commissioner Bonnie Heiple of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “CSO discharges are a legacy problem of early infrastructure that can be expensive to redesign and upgrade. Properly addressing those discharges will improve the health of the river’s ecosystem and the better protect those who use and recreate in the river.”