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EPA Announces Order Requiring Springfield to Fix High-Priority CSO Discharges

Release Date: 11/20/2000
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

BOSTON – Balancing the city's financial constraints with environmental protection needs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a proposed administrative order that would require the City of Springfield to immediately address combined sewer overflow (CSO) impacts to the Mill River, a tributary of the Connecticut River.

Unveiled after months of negotiations between the city, EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the proposed order requires the city to address six of its 25 CSO outfall pipes that discharge hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater into the Connecticut River and two of its tributaries, the Mill and Chicopee Rivers, after heavy rains. The order also requires the city to reduce stormwater pollution to Watershops Pond, the headwaters for the Mill River.

Last week's order allows the city to take more time to explore additional pollution abatement options before deciding how it will address its remaining CSO outfalls. By postponing work on those outfalls, the city and its residents will ensure that future money spent on CSO controls will be wisely spent.

"CSO discharges are a huge problem all across New England, but the EPA also needs to be sensitive to the stiff price tag it takes for municipalities to fix them," said Mindy S. Lubber, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "This agreement with Springfield strikes a good balance between the problem and the price tag. It will enable us to fix CSO pollution sources most directly impacting the city in a way that is affordable."

CSOs are sewer systems that were designed to carry sewage and storm water in the same pipe to a sewage treatment plant. Due to their lack of capacity, CSOs pipes are designed to overflow after heavy rain events, resulting in wastewater being discharged directly into such waterways as the Connecticut River.

In the case of Springfield, its 25 CSOs discharge an estimated 700 million gallons of wastewater a year into the Connecticut River and its tributaries, the Chicopee and Mill Rivers. These discharges are a major reason why all three rivers routinely violate water quality standards after heavy rains.

Springfield is among numerous cities on the Lower Connecticut River wrestling with CSO problems. Holyoke and Chicopee are currently under compliance orders for abating their CSO discharges, while the communities of Agawam, West Springfield, Ludlow and South Hadley have already eliminated their CSOs or are close to eliminating them.