City violated wastewater, storm water conditions of Clean Water Act
Under the terms of a consent decree lodged in federal court, the city of Fitchburg, Mass. will pay a civil penalty of $141,000 for violations of the Clean Water Act. The city will also perform a Supplemental Environmental Project worth at least $100,000 and is implementing significant remedial measures to minimize future discharges of pollutants into the environment.
The consent decree is the result of a federal enforcement action brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The complaint alleges that Fitchburg violated conditions of its permit controlling combined sewer overflows, bypassed wastewater flows around its secondary treatment system, violated numeric effluent limits on hundreds of occasions and discharged untreated overflows from the collection system without permit authorization.
“The federal Clean Water Act was established to ensure that everyone is committed to making our rivers and streams safe and healthy for our children and future generations,” said United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz. “I am pleased that the city of Fitchburg is dedicating itself to achieving this goal by agreeing to today’s consent decree, ensuring that the Nashua River is not left behind.”
“This settlement ensures that a major source of pollution to the Nashua River will be controlled,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England region. “It is satisfying that the city will build upon the progress it has already made in restoring the river, once again making it accessible for safe recreation.”
The consent decree to resolve the enforcement action imposes a schedule for addressing the city’s collection system and wastewater treatment plant deficiencies. It identifies specific combined system projects to prevent and control combined sewer overflows from significant portions of the city’s collection system. The city will also be required to establish a collection system operations and maintenance program to overcome systemic neglect of the collection system. Similarly, the city will be required to develop operational changes and system upgrades to enable the city to comply with all of its permit limits.
Preventing sewage from contaminating surface and groundwaters of the United States is one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives. The initiative continues EPA’s focus on municipal collection systems that are undersized or deteriorating. Municipal wastewater presents significant health threats to those using contaminated waters for recreational use and downstream drinking water systems.