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Release Date: 12/20/1996
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1064

(12/20/96) Boston - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the town of Lynnfield, Massachusetts have reached an agreement in which Lynnfield will pay a penalty of $36,000 for its dredging and filling activities at Pillings Pond. The agreement settles an EPA administrative penalty action for Clean Water Act wetlands violations.

The EPA filed the action earlier this year alleging that the town violated sections 301 and 404 of the Clean Water Act by dredging and filling portions of Pillings Pond between 1990 and 1996 without a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps"). About 10 acres of the pond, including approximately 2 acres of wetlands, were filled in order to build access roads and staging areas for the dredging. More than 20 additional acres of wetlands were dredged to deepen Pillings Pond.

The town had failed to obtain the necessary permit before it began work at Pillings Pond, even after been told by the Corps in 1989, that it would need a permit if the project included filling. EPA directed the town to stop its activities and also required Lynnfield to restore several acres of the wetlands which were dredged.

"Private companies typically have formal systems for checking environmental compliance in place; towns should do the same," said EPA's New England Administrator John P. DeVillars. As part of the settlement, the town acknowledged that it had violated the Clean Water Act, and committed to be more diligent in complying with future requirements.

Some of the areas of Pillings Pond which were filled or dredged were wetlands. Wetlands provide important habitats for wildlife species, as well as providing water quality purification functions and flood control. While some other municipalities which properly applied for permits have been allowed to do some dredging in ponds, this has been subject to strict environmental requirements including avoiding wetlands habitat areas and dredging without placing fill. These kinds of environmental protections were not implemented in Lynnfield's project, since the town did not apply for a permit and thus the project was not reviewed by the Corps.

The Clean Water Act requires that a permit be issued by the Corps for discharging dredged or filled material into wetlands or waterways, including when waters are disturbed by the dredging and redepositing of materials in the same waters. EPA and the Corps share enforcement authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The Corps referred this case to EPA for action and assisted in case development.