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Charles River Pollution Control District Pays Penalty for Clean Water Violations

Release Date: 10/19/2011
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – October 19, 2011) The Charles River Pollution Control District will pay a $16,500 fine and perform a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) at a cost of approximately $60,000 to resolve federal Clean Water Act (CWA) violations related to the operation of its wastewater treatment facility.

In March, EPA’s New England office filed a complaint against the Charles River Pollution Control District, which operates a wastewater treatment facility in Medway, Mass., alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act for discharging phosphorus and suspended solids into the Charles River at levels above those allowed by its federal permit.

In a compliance order issued along with the Complaint, the District was also ordered to provide EPA with an engineering evaluation explaining how it would improve its operation in order to comply with its permit limits.

The wastewater treatment facility serves the towns of Franklin, Medway, Bellingham and Millis.  Its discharges into the Charles River ultimately flow into Boston Harbor and are regulated by a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit.

EPA alleged that over the last five years, the District has routinely violated its warm-weather total phosphorus monthly average concentration limit, which is in effect from April 1 through October 31 each year.  According to the Complaint, operational deficiencies contributed to the District’s failure to comply consistently with its phosphorus limit.  The District also routinely violated its monthly limits for total suspended solids, which include all particles suspended in water which will not pass through a filter.

Since being notified of EPA’s concerns and the formal Complaint, the District has been cooperative with EPA and expressed its intention to comply with permit requirements.

In addition to paying the $16,500 penalty the District will spend $60,000 towards Low Impact Development/Green Infrastructure stormwater improvements in Franklin, Mass.  As part of the SEP, 2,000 square feet of impervious surface will be removed and a rain garden will be installed to improve the removal of solids and phosphorus, and to provide an area for infiltration of stormwater.  The SEP will also require installation of three deep sump catch basins and a Hydrodynamic Separator to further remove solids from stormwater in this area.  It is estimated that these improvements will remove 5,740 pounds/year of total suspended solids, 11 pounds/year of phosphorus, and 64.5 pounds/year of nitrogen.

The Charles River suffers from excess phosphorus levels from sources such as stormwater runoff and wastewater treatment plant discharges, as well as from discharges from the overflow of sewage pipes. With too much phosphorus in the water, algae, photosynthetic cyanobacteria and aquatic weeds can now grow in abundance, altering the natural balance of the aquatic ecosystem.

For the past several years, in work unrelated to this Complaint, EPA has been working closely with the communities of Franklin, Bellingham and Milford to design and implement pilot municipal programs to reduce high phosphorus levels in stormwater runoff.

More information:

EPA's enforcement of the Clean Water Act in New England (

EPA’s Clean Charles River Initiative (

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