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Worcester, Mass. Fined for Wastewater Violations Affecting Local Waters

Release Date: 09/28/2006
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Sept. 28, 2006) – The City of Worcester, Mass. will pay a penalty of $125,000 under a settlement with EPA for violations of the federal Clean Water Act that occurred as a result of sewage overflows from the City’s sanitary sewer collection system. The City’s sanitary sewer system has overflowed on at least 70 occasions over the past five years.

The settlement is a step towards resolving EPA’s concerns regarding Worcester’s sewer collection system. This action follows issuance of an EPA order last year requiring the City to initiate additional measures to prevent its sewerage system from overflowing in the future. Most of the overflows were caused by blockages in the system, which, in large part, can be prevented by the implementation of effective fats, oils & grease controls, routine cleaning, and preventative maintenance programs. The Order also required the City to assess the structural integrity of the sewer system, and to investigate measures to eliminate the overflows that occur at Chandler and Mann Streets during wet weather.

Worcester’s public sewer system includes both combined and separate wastewater collection systems, serving a population of about 170,000. On more than seventy occasions over the past five years, the City’s separate sanitary wastewater collection system experienced unpermitted overflows during dry weather, releasing untreated wastewater to Lake Quinsigamond, Indian Lake, Curtis Pond, Weasel Pond, Coes Pond, Beaver Brook, Poor Farm Brook, Old Mill Brook, Coal Mine Brook, Kettle Brook, Tatnuck Brook, Fitzgerald Brook, and the Blackstone River. The overflows occurred primarily due to sewer blockages and were not authorized under an EPA wastewater permit.

Untreated sewage can present a significant threat to water quality, carrying viruses, bacteria, and other biological pathogens as well as industrial wastes, including toxic materials. Further, Lake Quinsigamond serves with recreational boating needs of the community and routinely hosts rowing regattas.

“EPA recognizes that the City of Worcester has begun to put substantial efforts into its sewer system to control overflows, and the proposed penalty takes those efforts into account,” said Robert Varney, EPA regional Administrator. “Looking forward, EPA is confident that the City will work collaboratively with EPA staff to eliminate overflows.”

More information: EPA’s NPDES permit program [ ]

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