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Settlement with City of Gloucester Ensures Improvements to Treatment Plant and Addresses Sewer Overflows

Release Date: 08/23/2012
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Aug. 23, 2012) – Under the terms of a modified Consent Decree lodged in federal court today, the City of Gloucester will upgrade its sewage treatment plant and work to stem overflows from its sewer system.  The modified Consent Decree stems from a federal enforcement action brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts, on behalf of the Department of Environmental Protection.

United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz said, “Compliance with the federal Clean Water Act is critical for the health and safety of the citizens of our Commonwealth.  I am pleased that the City of Gloucester agreed to this modified Consent Decree, which will continue to improve the water quality in Gloucester Harbor.”

“This settlement should keep the City of Gloucester on the right track,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England region.  “Directing more concentrated efforts at maintaining treatment facilities and increasing cooperation between city departments will better protect Gloucester’s vital coastline.”

“We are pleased that the City of Gloucester will be taking steps necessary to protect its historic harbor and beaches,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley.  “These measures are crucially important as we work to ensure that our waters continue to be an invaluable resource for our coastal communities and the Commonwealth.”

Gloucester’s existing primary Treatment Plant is nearly 30 years old, and while the City has recently completed important upgrades, the system is in need of additional repair and rehabilitation to meet the terms and conditions of the current discharge permit.  Maintenance has been inadequate and parts have not been replaced in a timely manner.  These problems have resulted in discharges of poorly treated sewage in violation of the City’s permit.  Under the Consent Decree, the City will address these problems.

Gloucester’s combined sewer system is designed to collect stormwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial waste water in the same pipes and convey these wastewaters to the Treatment Plant.  The City’s system also includes several combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfalls, which discharge untreated wastewater when flows exceed the system’s capacity, typically during significant wet weather events.  The City’s CSO discharges violate the provisions of the Clean Water Act, and the Massachusetts Water Quality Standards.  The City initially developed a long-term CSO control plan in 2005.  The Modified Consent Decree replaces the 2005 CSO control plan, with a new, more cost-effective approach to mitigate and in some cases eliminate CSO discharges.  Implementation of this work will serve to improve water quality at Pavilion Beach and in Gloucester Harbor.

The City’s NPDES permit, however, does not allow overflows during dry weather.  Dry weather discharges occurred in Gloucester when there was still capacity in the system because the City did not pay close enough attention to operating the system.  The City has addressed the dry weather overflows and will work to minimize wet-weather other overflows under the Consent Decree.  Because of the City’s financial condition, the consent decree modification does not impose a penalty for the violations leading to this action. 

More information: The Consent Decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.  Once it is published in the Federal Register, a copy of the consent decree will be available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

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