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EPA and DEP Issue Discharge Permit for Marlborough Treatment Plant

Release Date: 09/23/04
Contact Information:

Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

For Immediate Release: September 23, 2004; Release # 04-09-10

BOSTON The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that they have jointly issued a final wastewater discharge permit for the City of Marlborough's Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant. The permit requires the city to complete construction of treatment facility upgrades necessary to meet discharge standards to address phosphorus pollution into Hop Brook within four years.

The Easterly plant has significant impacts on Hop Brook: during the summer, up to 99 percent of the brook's flow is effluent from the treatment plant, and 95 percent of the phosphorus load to the brook comes from the plant.

“This permit will bring much-needed water quality improvements to Hop Brook which has been seriously impacted over the years by discharges from the wastewater plant and other sources,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Treating wastewater more thoroughly is a critical component of restoring swimming, fishing and other recreational activities in the Hop Brook watershed.”

“This permit represents a major step in returning Hop Brook to a healthy water body again” added DEP Commissioner Robert W. Golledge Jr. “But with smaller streams like this one, it is also impacted by non-point sources of pollution, so we look forward to working with Marlborough and other downstream communities to address these pollution issues as well.”

The City of Marlborough's Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant is a 5.5 million-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment facility that discharges treated effluent to Hop Brook, a tributary of the Sudbury River. Hop Brook is affected by pollution from nutrients (chiefly phosphorus and nitrogen) that stimulate excess algae growth, resulting in a loss of oxygen for fish, unsightly growth and odor problems. The four ponds along Hop Brook are particularly affected.

Because of the pollution, most of the brook is unable to support its designated uses, including fishing, swimming and boating. Both state and federal clean water laws apply to the plant, so it is required to have both a federal and state permit. The plant has been operating under a joint federal-state permit issued in 1988. The phosphorus limit in the 1988 permit is 0.75 milligrams of phosphorus per liter of effluent (0.75 mg/l).

In 1999, EPA issued a new permit to replace the 1988 permit. After this new permit was appealed by both the City of Marlborough and the Hop Brook Protection Association, EPA began negotiations with the DEP and the appealing parties, and withdrew the 1999 permit (leaving the 1988 permit in force).

The new permit was jointly proposed, and is being jointly issued by EPA and DEP. It sets long-term limits for phosphorus of 0.1 mg/l from April through November and 0.75 mg/l from December through March. The permit requires compliance with the phosphorus limit within four years. In the meantime, the existing plant must meet phosphorus limits of 0.5 mg/l from April through November and continue to meet limits of 0.75 mg/l from December through March.

Additional new elements in the proposed permit include toxicity limits for the effluent and a required plan by the city to control non-sewer water leaking into the city's sewer system.

For more information about water discharge permits, visit the agency’s web site at

Related Information:
Water Permits
Water Topics