Massachusetts City To Invest $86 Million to Improve Sewage Treatment System, Pay Civil Fine

Brockton, Mass., will pay a $120,000 fine and invest in a $86 million sewage treatment upgrade to resolve allegations that the city's publicly-owned treatment works ("POTW") had discharges that violated limits for phosphorous, total residual chlorine, fecal coliform and ammonia, among other pollutants.

Under the terms of a consent decree reached with federal and state officials, Brockton also will undertake three supplemental environmental projects.

"Thanks to close coordination and strong efforts by state and federal agencies, Brockton is already beginning to make improvements to its treatment plant that will better protect public health and the aquatic ecosystem of the Salisbury Plain River," said Robert W. Varney, EPA Region 1 Administrator. "The work at the plant and the supplemental projects will make real improvements that we can all be proud of."

A civil complaint and consent decree were simultaneously filed on Aug. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston. The state also moved to intervene and filed its own complaint.

The civil complaint alleges that Brockton failed to comply with the Clean Water Act in operation of its POTW, and violated its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System ("NPDES") permit by exceeding concentration limits for certain effluents.

Under the settlement, Brockton will pay a total penalty of $120,000 ($60,000 to the federal government, and $60,000 to Massachusetts). It will be required to complete three phases of the POTW upgrade project. Phase I has begun and operation will commence in December 2006. The contract for Phase II was awarded in February, and that work will be completed by March 2008. The city is required under the consent decree to award the contract and issue a notice to commence work for Phase III of the upgrade project by this coming fall.

"With this agreement, the citizens of Brockton will enjoy cleaner water and improvements to their natural resources, like the Salisbury Plain River," state Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said. "Brockton is taking some very positive steps today, and my office will continue to work with law enforcement to protect and preserve our environment."

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Robert Golledge Jr. praised the work of the technical personnel who addressed complicated issues in the design of the upgrade project. "DEP personnel have been in regular contact with city engineers and contractors, making sure the upgrade project went forward, even as details of the consent decree were being worked out."

The city also agreed to undertake three supplemental environmental projects that include a post-upgrade water quality assessment of the Salisbury Plain River; contracting for a study to investigate region-wide alternatives for wastewater treatment, and a pilot program to test for lead in drinking water at the city's public schools.

By agreeing to assess the water quality of the river after it completes construction of the upgrade to its treatment plant, the city will be developing valuable data on the health of the river that will enable regulators to better manage this valuable resource, officials said.

An investigation of wastewater treatment alternatives for southeastern Massachusetts, will address concerns raised by other communities in the area looking for ways to dispose of their wastewater in a manner consistent with the state and federal environmental laws. Developing options such as ground discharges and decentralized treatment units will allow for growth in these communities without harming the environment.

The consent decree is available on the U.S. Department of Justice's Web site: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

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