Contact Us


All News Releases By Date


Settlement Ensures Better Sewage Treatment for Massachusetts Bay and Other Boston-area Waters

Release Date: 07/01/2008
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Regional Administrator Robert W. Varney
New England Regional Office

U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan
District of Massachusetts

July 1, 2008

(Boston, Mass. – July 1, 2008) – A judicial settlement reached between the United States and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), will require a higher level of treatment for sewage reaching the Deer Island Treatment Plant before being discharged into Massachusetts Bay.

The settlement, between EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice and MWRA, requires MWRA to pay a $305,000 penalty and perform several additional projects, also valued at $305,000, that will also result in better water quality within Massachusetts Bay, Boston Harbor and its tributary rivers.

The agreement comes in response to claims by EPA that the MWRA failed to perform treatment on as much sewage-contaminated wastewater as possible that had been received at the Deer Island Treatment Plant (DITP), despite the Plant’s capability to have performed treatment. The DITP is located at the outer edge of Boston Harbor leading into the broader waters of Massachusetts Bay. The failure to perform adequate treatment of wastewater at the DITP resulted in more than 22 billion gallons of sewage-contaminated wastewater being discharged into Massachusetts Bay since 2001.

“This settlement will ensure that the Deer Island Treatment Plant is keeping millions of gallons of pollutants from entering Massachusetts Bay each year,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England office. “With the additional projects MWRA is required to implement, Boston Harbor will get even cleaner and benefit the many people who enjoy this vital water body.”

“This settlement requires full utilization of the DITP’s secondary treatment capacity, as required by the Clean Water Act,” said Michael Sullivan, the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “In order to minimize environmental impact and improve water quality, it is important that sewage treatment plants avoid bypasses of critical treatment stages to the greatest extent feasible. The Boston Harbor, its waterways and coastlines are some of Massachusetts’ greatest treasures. It is our duty to pass on to future generations a clean and healthy environment and this settlement will bring much needed protection to the affected waterways.”

Upon its full start-up in the year 2001, the DITP was expected to provide a high level of treatment, known as secondary treatment, for amounts up to and exceeding 700 million gallons of sewage per day. A review of plant records revealed that on numerous days between the calendar years 2001 and 2005, MWRA operated the DITP in a manner that discharged a significant volume of partially treated wastewater on days when flows to the plant were less than its capacity to treat.

All flows to the plant receive some level of screening and settling treatment known as “primary” treatment. After primary treatment, flows pass through “secondary” treatment to remove more contaminants and allow further biological breakdown of sewage. Since 2001, however, the MWRA has bypassed more than 22 billion gallons of wastewater that should have received secondary treatment. As part of the settlement announced today, the MWRA has agreed to treat as much wastewater through its secondary treatment facilities as the facility can handle.

In addition to the $305,000 fine and the requirement to provide secondary treatment to as many gallons of wastewater as can be handled by the DITP, the agreement requires the MWRA to undertake three significant Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) that will further improve water quality in Boston Harbor. One of the SEPs requires MWRA to purchase a “pumpout” boat that will enable harbor vessels to pump their sanitary wastes into a tank on that boat rather than into Boston Harbor or Massachusetts Bay. This acquisition will assist efforts underway by the City of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and EPA to expand “no discharge areas” in coastal waters to include Boston Harbor.

Under the other two SEPs, MWRA will provide for removal of debris from a number of tributaries to the Harbor, and MWRA will install low flow fixtures in municipal buildings in a number of MWRA-serviced communities.

Contacts: U.S. EPA – David Deegan, (617) 918-1010
U.S. DOJ – Christina Diiorio-Sterling, (617) 748-3356

More information:

- EPA Clean Water Enforcement in New England (

- EPA No Discharge Areas in New England (

- Deer Island Treatment Plant (

# # #