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EPA and Mass DEP Propose Permit for Marlborough Wastewater Treatment Plant

Release Date: 11/21/2001
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, (617- 918-1014)

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) announced today that they have jointly issued a draft water discharge permit for the City of Marlborough's Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant. The proposed permit would require the city to complete construction by 2005 of a treatment plant capable of meeting strict discharge standards to address phosphorus pollution into Hop Brook. The Easterly plant has significant impacts on Hop Brook: in summer up to 90% of the brook's flow is effluent from the treatment plant, and 95% of the phosphorus in the brook comes from the plant.

Public comments on the proposed permit will be accepted until December 13. After the comment period closes, the EPA and the MA DEP will respond to comments and issue a final permit.

"This permit is the first step in cleaning up the pollution that's choking Hop Brook and preventing it from being enjoyed," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Better treatment is a good investment for all of the area's residents."

"DEP worked closely with EPA to draft an agreement that protects Hop Brook by bringing the operation of the city's plant into compliance with protective environmental guidelines," said DEP Commissioner Lauren A. Liss. "This project will make a huge difference in the quality of life for those living near Hop Brook."

The City of Marlborough's Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant is a 5.5 million gallon per day wastewater treatment facility that discharges treated effluent to Hop Brook, a tributary of the Sudbury River. Hop Brook is affected by pollution from nutrients (chiefly phosphorus and nitrogen) that stimulate excess algae growth, resulting in a loss of oxygen for fish, unsightly growth and odor problems. The four ponds at the head of Hop Brook are particularly affected. Because of the pollution, most of the brook is unable to support it's designated uses, including fishing, swimming and boating.

Both state and federal clean water laws apply to the plant, so it is required to have both a federal and state permit. Currently, the plant is operating under a joint federal-state permit issued in 1988 The phosphorus limit in the 1988 permit is 0.75 milligrams per liter of effluent (0.75 mg/l).

In 1999, EPA issued a new permit to replace the 1988 permit. After this new permit was appealed by both the City of Marlborough and the Hop Brook Protection Association, EPA began negotiations with the MA DEP and the appealing parties, withdrawing the 1999 permit (leaving the 1988 permit in force). The current draft permit is being jointly proposed, and would be jointly issued, by the EPA and the MA DEP.

The proposed permit would set long-term limits for phosphorus of 0.2 mg/l from April through November and 0.5 mg/l from December through March. The permit would require the city to evaluate available technologies capably of routinely meeting these limits or better, create a facilities improvement plan, and have improved facilities in startup performance evaluation by November 2005. In the meantime, the existing plant must meet phosphorus limits of 0.5 mg/l from April through November and 0.75 mg/l from December through March.

Additional new elements in the proposed permit include toxicity limits for the effluent and a required plan by the city to reduce the volume of wastewater by eliminating non-sewer water leaking into the city's sewer system.