Feds say Boston Water and Sewer Commission is polluting area rivers


by John Ellement, Boston Globe

Federal officials today joined the Conservation Law Foundation in demanding that the Boston Water and Sewer Commission fix its sewer system and cut down on the volume of polluted water flowing into rivers around Boston.

In a statement today, Massachusetts US Attorney Carmen Ortiz and the Environmental Protection Agency’s New England office alleged the Boston Water and Sewer Commission is violating the federal Clean Water Act by polluting the Charles, Neponset, Mystic, and other rivers, all of which eventually flow into Boston Harbor.

“Protecting the integrity of our waterways is important,’’ Ortiz said in a statement. “This enforcement action reflects our continuing commitment to that goal.”

The federal agencies now say they will intervene in a federal lawsuit filed against the commission by the Conservation Law Foundation in February. In a statement today, the foundation said the lawsuit “documents serious failures in the system that are allowing ongoing unlawful pollution of Boston’s waterway.”

“The federal government’s entry into this case is a clear indication of the urgency of the matter and the priority EPA places on it,” Conservation Law Foundation official Christopher Kilian said in the statement.

Today’s actions by federal officials adds significantly more clout to the foundation’s demand that the commission spend the time and money needed to permanently implement pollution controls.

“Ensuring that we take steps to stop the daily discharge of sewage and other pollutants to these water bodies is critically important for protecting the health of our people and our environment,” EPA Regional Administrator H. Curtis Spalding said in a statement.

“With sufficient investment of resources, we expect that BWSC will be able to implement measures to control these pollution sources and improve water quality,” Spalding said.

The Boston Water and Sewer Commission issued a statement reacting to the federal action, but declined to address the specific complaints raised in the lawsuit.

“We have no comments on the specifics,’’ the statement said. “However, the commission takes its role as an environmental steward as seriously as any other and is proud of its contributions to the resurgence of Boston Harbor and the Waterfront.’’The statement continued, “The commission’s comment to a better environment has been consistently demonstrated in its aggressive capital improvement program which commits significant resources to system improvements.’’

Commission spokesman Thomas Bagley declined further comment.

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