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EPA CITES MASSACHUSETTS PUBLIC AGENCIES AND TOWNS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS

Release Date: 10/05/1996
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1064 or After 4:00 call (508) 369-7140

Boston - The New England office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited one federal agency, one state agency, and three Massachusetts communities for failing to comply with environmental requirements. Cited were the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for its South Huntington Avenue, Boston medical center, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections facility at Bridgewater, and the towns of Lynnfield, Palmer and Falmouth.

This brings the total to 51 for the number of enforcement actions taken against public agencies this year. In the fall of 1994, EPA began an effort to target public agencies for environmental compliance. To date, nearly 100 enforcement actions have been taken under this initiative.

"Citizens have every right to expect their government to follow the rules of this country. EPA's public agency program should restore the public trust that the laws written in Washington, are carried out throughout New England," said John P. DeVillars, administrator for EPA's New England office. "Many of the cases we've undertaken as part of the public agency initiative represent prudent and creative use of our enforcement authority where the ultimate winners are New Englanders."

Details of each case follow.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has agreed to pay an environmental penalty of $47,725 and spend nearly $17,000 more to carry out an employee environmental training program to settle an EPA complaint filed for violations of state and federal waste management laws. In discussions with EPA, the VA offered to undertake a comprehensive training program for employees at all of its New England medical facilities as a safeguard against future waste handling problems. Employees will also be trained to look for pollution prevention opportunities at each location.

EPA conducted a comprehensive environmental inspection at the VA's Boston Medical Center at 150 South Huntington Avenue late last year and discovered violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In the Consent Agreement and Order issued to the VA, the medical center is required to:

    • properly mark, label and manage its hazardous waste containers;
    • separate incompatible wastes;
    • store hazardous wastes in appropriate containers;
    • conduct weekly inspections of hazardous waste storage areas.
The VA's plan to train its New England employees in safe management and handling of hazardous wastes will ensure that future accidents will be minimized and that violations of the kind found on South Huntington Avenue will not occur at its other New England locations.

Department of Correction, Bridgewater Correctional Complex

EPA proposed a penalty of $125,000 against the Department of Corrections (DOC) for its continued violation of effluent limits for total residual chlorine as defined in its wastewater discharge permit, National Pollution Discharge Elimination System or NPDES. The facility operates a 0.5 million gallon wastewater treatment plant that discharges treated wastewater to Saw Mill Brook.

The DOC was under a previous EPA order to construct a dechlorination facility at Bridgewater by April 1996. Delays in the project put the construction 12 months behind schedule.

EPA issues NPDES permits to dischargers of wastewater to waters of the United states. These permits set stringent limits on the amount of pollutants contained in the wastewater. Chlorine is typically added to the wastewater to reduce bacteria levels, but chlorine itself can be toxic in the aquatic environment. Therefore, limitations are also often placed on chlorine levels.

Town of Lynnfield, MA

EPA ordered the town of Lynnfield to cease unpermitted dredging and filling of wetlands and waters in violation of the Clean Water Act and to partially restore damage done to Pillings Pond. Lynnfield also faces an environmental penalty of up to $75,000.

According to EPA, Lynnfield dredged and filled portions of the 88-acre Pillings Pond and associated marsh from April, 1990, and continuing until August of this year when EPA notified the town by letter to cease and desist the unauthorized activity. This dredging resulted in the discharge and redeposition of some of the dredged material back into Pillings Pond. EPA estimates that 30 acres of the pond were dredged. Lynnfield also filled numerous acres of the pond to create access roads, berms and staging areas from which to do the dredging, five acres of this area remain filled. The town did not seek the required permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Pillings Pond provided beneficial flood and pollution control, while also serving as a valuable wildlife habitat. The Clean Water Act requires that a permit be issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for discharging dredged or fill material into wetlands and waters. EPA and the Army Corps share enforcement authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The Army Corps of Engineers referred this case to EPA for action, and assisted in case development.

Town of Palmer, MA

EPA has proposed a $30,000 penalty against the town of Palmer for continued violations of water quality standards caused by frequent overflows of combined sanitary and stormwater sewers during times of heavy rains. Palmer operates a wastewater collection system with 26 pipes that discharge wastewater to the Chicopee, Quaboag, Ware, and Swift rivers. Since 1991, Palmer has been under EPA order to develop a program to control discharges from these pipes. Work has been delayed for numerous reasons.

Town of Falmouth, MA

Falmouth officials will be holding at least two hazardous waste collection days in each of the next two years as part of a settlement with the EPA for violations of stratospheric ozone protection laws. The town has also agreed to conduct an environmental compliance and pollution prevention audit at its marinas and harbors, and Department of Public Works and fire department facilities, as well as pay a $3,375 penalty. The Clean Air Act has provisions that require refrigerants to be recovered from an appliance before disposing of the unit, in this case a refrigerator.