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NSTAR Agrees to $63,380 Settlement for Oil Spill Violations in Charles River

Release Date: 05/28/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

For Immediate Release: May 28, 2004 Release # 04-05-25

BOSTON - The NSTAR Electric and Gas Corp. has agreed to pay a penalty of $15,845 and perform an environmental project worth $47,535 to settle claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it discharged oil into the Charles River on two occasions in 2002 and failed to develop spill control plans at four facilities used for storing oil.

The first spill occurred on August 6, 2002 from a pipe-type cable, a pipe that houses an electric transmission line surrounded by pressurized oil. The pipe ruptured after being damaged by a contractor of an unknown party, causing oil to leak into a storm drain that discharged into the Charles River near the Riverside boathouse in Cambridge.

The second spill also involved a pipe-type cable. On October 17, 2002, the pipe carrying the insulating oil ruptured where it crossed the Massachusetts Turnpike in Brighton and discharged a small amount of oil into the Charles.

NSTAR also settled EPA claims for failing to prepare spill plans for four different facilities. These facilities, which store oil that is pumped through the pipe-type cables, are located in Cambridge, West Roxbury, Needham and Brighton. As part of the settlement, NSTAR also agreed to produce an integrated spill prevention plan that covers its pipe-type cables and the oil storage facilities.

NSTAR agreed to pay a penalty of $15,845 to the US Coast Guard’s oil spill trust fund, which is used to finance the Coast Guard’s efforts to clean up oil spills. In addition, NSTAR will undertake a supplemental environmental project that will demonstrate the effectiveness of a novel cistern/drywell system for capturing and reusing stormwater.

Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office, lauded the settlement as another instance where past violations have been converted to future benefits for the environment. “NSTAR has stepped up to the plate by resolving its outstanding compliance issues and moving forward with a project that will provide useful information on how to solve stormwater problems in a heavily urbanized area,” Varney said.

The demonstration project will be built at Harvard University’s vehicle washing facility. Water will be captured on the roof of the building and stored in a cistern for use in vehicle washing. In addition to recycling rainwater, the project will limit the amount of water entering the combined sewer system and will reduce the amount of contaminated stormwater that might otherwise flow from the site. Captured rainwater will also be used to irrigate landscaping around the building. The project will provide for a large demonstration of this technology and provide measurements of the various environmental benefits it produces.

For more information on oil spills and spill prevention requirements, visit the agency’s web site at

Related Information:
Oil Storage Facility Spill Prevention and Planning
Oil Spills/SPCC Enforcement Program