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BOSTON UNIVERSITY AGREES TO PAY FINE AND UNDERTAKE PROJECTS TO SETTLE ENVIRONMENTAL LAWSUIT

Release Date: 10/08/1997
Contact Information: Joy Fallon and Amy Rindskopf, (617) 223-9445. Mindy Lubber (617)565-3417.

BOSTON -- United States Attorney Donald K. Stern, Assistant Attorney General Lois J. Schiffer, and EPA Regional Administrator John DeVillars announced today that the EPA and the Department of Justice have reached an agreement with Boston University which resolves alleged substantial violations by the University of the Clean Water Act and Federal hazardous waste laws. A civil complaint and consent decree were filed today in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Under the agreement, B.U. will pay a penalty of $253,000, will conduct two "supplemental environmental projects" that will cost the University an additional $518,000, and will undertake a university-wide environmental compliance audit. In addition, B.U. has taken and will take other steps to remedy its violations. These steps include completing ongoing remediation of a 1996 oil spill into the River, amending the University's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan and conducting an environmental compliance audit.

The Complaint alleges that B.U. was responsible for two oil spills into the Charles River, and also alleges that the University failed to prepare and implement oil spill prevention plans for its Charles River and Medical School campuses. The complaint also alleges that B.U. was responsible for numerous hazardous waste violations discovered during an EPA inspection of laboratories at the University's Medical School Campus.

The more serious of the two oil spills occurred in January 1996. The spill discharged oil to the Charles River around the Boston University Bridge and was caused by a slow, chronic leak from an underground storage tank at B.U.'s School for the Arts Building at 855 Commonwealth Avenue. The actual amount of oil that discharged to the River was undetermined, but oil continued to seep intermittently into the river over the course of many months.

Part of EPA's settlement requires B.U. to prevent further oil seepage into the River. The University has agreed to line a Boston Water and Sewer Commission storm drain that allowed oil-contaminated groundwater to continue to discharge into the River through cracks in storm drain pipes. B.U. has recently completed installation of this storm drain liner. Additionally, B.U. is installing a petroleum product recovery system around the site to remediate the groundwater that has been contaminated as a result of the leak.

"The message that this settlement sends out is crystal clear: If you're polluting the Charles, we are going to find you. And when we do, you are going to pay, and pay big time," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England administrator. "EPA intends to reach its goal of a fishable, swimmable Charles by Earth Day 2005. Today's action takes us another step closer to that goal."

United States Attorney Donald K. Stern said "B.U. has admitted its mistakes, paid a hefty penalty and agreed to important remedial measures. There is now less chance that the rowers in the upcoming Head of the Charles will have to compete with oil slicks."

"What was a punch in the eye for the Charles has now turned into a helping hand," DeVillars added. "The project B.U. has agreed to will help limit environmentally damaging stormwater discharges from on campus locations."

The complaint alleges violations for B.U.'s failure to: properly date and label containers of hazardous waste; properly train its personnel; inspect hazardous waste storage areas; complete a Contingency Plan; and retain and complete forms that indicate proper treatment for disposal of hazardous wastes.

The consent decree requires B.U. to conduct two Supplemental Environmental Projects. One project, which will be conducted with the help of EPA and the Charles River Watershed Association, will help control stormwater discharges to the Charles River by identifying and constructing new stormwater control technologies around sites at B.U.'s campus. Stormwater pollution has been identified as one of the major contributing factors of poor water quality in the Charles River. This project complements other EPA enforcement actions directed at violations in the Lower Charles River, including enforcement against municipalities for illegal discharges of sewage through storm drains.

This project will remediate and rehabilitate a community garden in the Lower Roxbury area of Boston, near the University's Medical School. This project will be completed with the assistance of the South End Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust (SELROST). Initial soil testing at the garden indicates that lead levels exceed the level recommended for growing vegetables. B.U. plans to pay for a full clean-up and rehabilitation of the garden as part of the settlement. This project will benefit low income and minority residents in the area who often utilize these gardens for subsistence farming.

Notice of the consent decree will be published in the Federal Register, and interested persons will be given the opportunity to comment on the decree prior to its being entered by the district court.

The enforcement case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney George B. Henderson, II of Stern's Civil Division, Jerry MacLaughlin, Trial Attorney for the Department of Justice, Environmental Enforcement Section, Sheryl Rosner, enforcement counsel for EPA's New England office, and other members of EPA - New England's Urban Enforcement and Assistance Team.

Press Contacts: Joy Fallon and Amy Rindskopf, (617) 223-9445. Mindy Lubber (617)565-3417.