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1999 News Releases



Release Date: 12/20/1999
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week praised the City of Cambridge for the active steps it has taken to reduce contamination from stormwater runoff.

The city's Department of Public Works (DPW) recently discovered four Harvard Square restaurants engaged in illicit dumping of food waste, oil and grease into a storm drain on Eliot Street, which runs directly into the Charles River. The DPW ordered the restaurants to stop the practice immediately.

Waste thrown into storm drains is one of the common sources of pollution in the Charles River. In the last few years, EPA-New England, working with communities and private organizations, has made significant progress in closing off illegal sewer connections into the river. Some of the most significant work ahead involves educating citizens about contaminants that make their way into storm water, including dog feces, fertilizer, motor oil and cooking grease.

"Cambridge officials showed the kind of vigilance we hope all communities and citizens will adopt as we work together to make the Charles clean enough for swimming by Earth Day 2005," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England Administrator. "Each cup of grease, motor oil or fertilizer we can keep out of the river brings us closer to our goal."

Cambridge discovered the grease when DPW workers were testing the sewer system at the corner of JFK and Eliot streets for contamination to confirm that all illicit sewer hookups had been eliminated. Workers were surprised to find high levels of bacteria and soon discovered the source was a nearby storm drain that was coated with grease and food waste. The fecal Coliform count at the intersection of JFK and Eliot streets was 450,000 colony forming units (CFUs) per milliliter compared to an allowable count of 200 CFUs .