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EPA Files Complaint Against NSTAR For Oil Spills From Transmission Pipes

Release Date: 10/07/2003
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it has filed an administrative complaint against NSTAR Electric & Gas Corporation, of Boston, for failing to plan for and prevent oil spills from oil-containing electric transmission pipes in the Boston area.

The electric transmission pipes, known as Pipe Type Cables (PTCs), are eight inch pipes containing an electric line and filled with pressurized oil for insulation. The pipes run both under and above ground, as well as along bridges over the Charles River, other waterways, and highways.

EPA's complaint alleges four oil spills from PTCs owned by NSTAR in the Boston area between December 1998 and April 2003. A total of more than 1,800 gallons reached the Charles River from the spills, which occurred at a pipe suspended under the North Washington Street bridge near the Charles River Dam, from a pipe crossing above the Massachusetts Turnpike at Commonwealth Ave. and from an underground pipe immediately above a storm drain that reaches the Charles near the Cambridge boathouse. The complaint also alleges NSTAR failed to develop and implement adequate spill control plans, as required by federal law.

"Oil spills into the Charles River, at a time when Boston, Cambridge, MWRA and others have made such huge strides to improve water quality, are not acceptable," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "We hope that this action will help reduce the chance of future spills from NSTAR's facilities."

As part of the administrative process, EPA will be proposing a penalty which will reflect the seriousness of the violations. The statutory maximum penalty for the alleged violations is $137,500.