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Property Owners Who Filled Cranberry Bogs File Settlement with EPA New England

Release Date: 05/24/2000
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - A cranberry grower in Bridgewater who allegedly destroyed protected wetlands has agreed to dig up and convert more than eight acres of his cranberry farm into wetlands to settle a federal lawsuit brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice. The grower, Bruce Dyer, also will pay a $15,000 fine.

In the settlement filed this week in U.S. District Court in Boston, Dyer agreed to convert about 8.2 acres of his cranberry farm at 36 Holly Lane in Bridgewater to wetlands. Dyer has about 14 acres of cranberry bogs on the site. Based on evidence collected during a two-year investigation, the U.S. government believes that from 1994 through 1997 Dyer illegally filled about 8.2 acres of high-quality wetlands near the Taunton River to build his cranberry farm. These wetlands had provided wildlife habitat and served as a means for water purification and flood control.

In a separate but related settlement also filed this week, William Johnson and Virginia Riley agreed to pay a total of $1,500 to settle claims that they also illegally filled wetlands at the site. Riley owned the property from 1989 to 1994, then sold it to Dyer. Based on the government's evidence, Johnson, who was then Riley's husband, illegally disturbed and filled two to three acres of wetlands on the site. This acreage was further disturbed and filled by Dyer.

Mindy S. Lubber, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office, praised this week's settlement.

"This settlement is a big victory for protecting wetlands which are vitally important to the ecosystem of southeastern Massachusetts. Under these agreements, all of the functions and values of the destroyed wetlands will be restored," Lubber said. "By filling in this land, the property owners destroyed important habitat for wildlife, damaged the wetland's natural water purification system and robbed this area of flood control."

EPA is investigating other potentially illegal discharges into wetlands by cranberry growers and expects to proceed with additional actions for wetland restoration and penalties.