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Massachusetts Sues Plymouth Over Sewage

BOSTON (CN) - Massachusetts sued the Town of Plymouth and its wastewater system operator, claiming they dumped more than 10 million gallons of raw sewage into woodlands.

The commonwealth sued Plymouth and Veolia Water North America-Northeast on April 20 in Suffolk County Court, claiming the massive leak was caused by a corroded and negligently maintained water main.

A 2012 leak of untreated sewage into Plymouth Bay tainted large swaths of shellfish beds.

"It is critically important that wastewater treatment facilities, like the one operated by Veolia in Plymouth, are adequately maintained and properly operated," Attorney General Martha Healey said after filing the lawsuit.

"This is a case involving repeated, serious violations of state laws that threatened public health and our invaluable water resources."

The water plant leaked more than 10 million gallons of raw, untreated sewage onto woodlands and other areas in Plymouth, including state-owned property, from December 2015 through January, the state says.

"This raw, untreated sewage will degrade the groundwater and eventually reach Plymouth Harbor and exacerbate the nutrient impairment of that water body," the complaint states.

The state claims that Veolia has repeatedly discharged improperly treated or untreated wastewater to Plymouth Harbor since late 2012. In some cases, shellfish beds in Plymouth Harbor had to be closed due to high fecal coliform levels.

Plymouth Harbor produces large quantities of shellfish. It is fished by 1,456 recreational shellfishing license holders and 72 commercial license holders.

The state also says the wastewater plant has been understaffed, which contributed to the system deterioration.

"Proper staffing, operation and maintenance of this wastewater system is critical to support the hard work and years of investment that Plymouth and surrounding communities have made to improve the water quality and the public's use and enjoyment of the Plymouth Harbor and Kingston and Duxbury Bay areas," the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement.

The commonwealth seeks up to $50,000 for each day of each violation.

Veolia did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

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