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EPA ORDERS HAVERHILL TO ADDRESS DISCHARGES INTO THE MERRIMACK RIVER

Release Date: 08/12/1999
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it has issued a compliance order to the City of Haverhill, requiring the city to develop a long-term plan for addressing 16 combined sewer overflow (CSO) pipes, which discharge millions of gallons of untreated storm water and sewage into the Merrimack River each year.

The overflows occur when the city's wastewater collection system - which carries both sewage and storm water - exceeds its capacity, causing untreated sewage and storm water to be discharged through the CSO outfall pipes. The discharges occur after rainstorms and wet weather events.

The federal Clean Water Act forbids CSOs that cause rivers and other water bodies to violate water quality standards.

"The overflows we're seeing in Haverhill are a major source of bacterial pollution to the Merrimack River and they're a big reason why this river routinely violates water quality standards for swimming and fishing after wet weather events," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England Administrator. "The order we're issuing today requires the city to address this problem so that the city's sewage will reach the city's wastewater treatment facility rather than being discharged untreated into the river."

The administrative order requires the city to complete the long-term CSO control and abatement plan, including a proposed implementation schedule, within 16 months. The work also includes completion of an alternatives analysis, a financial capability analysis and an environmental impacts report.

The schedule for submitting the work is the result of a meeting held last month between city officials, EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The schedule is consistent with the time frame negotiated earlier this year with the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District for a CSO control and abatement plan.