For Immediate Release: June 16, 1999

MWRA Board Votes To Accept Conditions Of New Outfall Permit Protecting Massachusetts Bay

The Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority today voted to accept the conditions contained in the Clean Water Act permit recently issued to govern the operation of the MWRA’s Deer Island Treatment Plant, the restriction on the new outfall tunnel and the protection of Massachusetts Bay.

The Board also voted to appeal three other terms of the permit dealing with local water and sewer management issues that could impose unwarranted new regulatory burdens on the greater Boston area communities and the ratepayers that are served by the MWRA system.

MWRA Executive Director Doug MacDonald noted that the permit conditions for the outfall and for the environmental protection for Massachusetts Bay were the result of years of hard work by EPA, the state Department of Environmental Protection, environmental advocacy groups, and many concerned citizens from Cape Cod to the North Shore, as well as MWRA. According to MacDonald, "Everyone agrees that the plant must run well, the outfall must be carefully monitored, and the ecosystem of Massachusetts Bay must be scrupulously protected. We’re ready to meet the permit."

The 9.5-mile, $260 million outfall tunnel is scheduled to begin operation in September of this year.

MWRA is, however, taking issue with several sections of the permit that suggest EPA and DEP will force higher levels of spending and new controls on local water and sewer operations that have always been subject to communities’ management.

MacDonald said, "We have an obligation to protect Massachusetts Bay and therefore we can agree with everything in the permit that will help us do so. We also have an obligation to the forty-three communities we serve and hundreds of thousands of ratepayers that our local water and sewer-system management is practical and cost effective. We’re disappointed in the way the permit handles the three provisions that are aimed at those local issues. The regulatory bureaucracies have not recognized the ratepayers’ needs, and we must defend the ratepayers by taking appeals on those questions.

The most important of the disputed local issues is how the permit will force local communities to fix leaks in sewers, require sump pump disconnections and make other changes to local sewers to reduce so-called "inflow/infiltration." A task force representing communities, regulators, regional agencies and environmental advocates has been working hard to determine the goals and strategies that will solve inflow/infiltration problems. MWRA officials today released a letter from the task force expressing its "concern and dissatisfaction" concerning the permit. The task force wrote that "the net result of the Final NPDES Permit language will impede the development of consensus on I/I reduction goals and strategies."

The other issues to be appealed are the efforts of the regulators to dictate the basis for drinking water conservation programs to be imposed in communities served by the MWRA sewers, and to set arbitrary limits on local and state decision-makers’ judgment when considering applications to connect users outside the current service area to the MWRA sewer system.


For more: The New Outfall: Frequently Asked Questions

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