Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Enviros Sue Boston Over Dirty Water

BOSTON (CN) - The Boston Water and Sewer Commission violated federal water regulations and failed to stop pollution of the city's waterways, the Conservation Law Foundation claims in Federal Court. The main culprit, the nonprofit public interest group says, is the city's municipal storm sewer system, also known as the MS4.

The MS4 drains stormwater from about 57 percent of Boston and is the largest contributor to pollution of the state's rivers, streams and marine waters, according to the complaint.

The Boston Harbor, the Charles, Chelsea, Mystic, and Neponset Rivers, among others, are all suffering due to the Commission's failure to adhere to federal standards, the Foundation says.

The Commission was awarded a permit to discharge stormwater from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System in 1999, but has failed to adhere to many of the regulations and conditions that came with it, according to the complaint.

Since 2001, the complaint states, BWSC Annual Reports have failed to include estimates of the MS4's cumulative loads of pollutants. They have failed to estimate and report on trends regarding the "cumulative annual loads of specified pollutants - including but not limited to copper, zinc, total phosphorous and total suspended solids."

Monitoring of high-density residential areas such as Mount Vernon Street in Charlestown identified violations of water quality standards for E. coli, fecal coliform and dissolved copper.

In an audit of the Boston system in 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency found that the "BWSC does not have authority over various City departments and commissions to ensure the permit requirements are met and the storm water program effectively implemented," and that "[i]n most cases, BWSC does not have formal agreements in place to ensure the other City departments and commissions are fulfilling their responsibilities," according to the complaint.

The Foundation says the BWSC has also failed address stormwater issues associated with new development and construction and failed to take action to address them, as requested during the audit.

While the federal permit requires the commission to monitor a minimum of five representative drainage areas, the Foundation says the BWSC has monitored only three. And after 2006, the BWSC allegedly stopped monitoring stormwater-receiving waters all together, four of which are required by their federal permit to be tested three times a year.

The Conservation Law Foundation seeks declaratory judgment that the BWSC its executive director and commissioners violated the federal permit and the Clean Water Act and should be enjoined from further violations.

The Conservation Law Foundation is represented by its house counsel Peter Shelley.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.