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Boston Water and Sewer Commission Settlement

(Washington, DC - August 23, 2012) - Under the terms of a consent decree lodged in federal court today, the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) will implement extensive remedial measures to minimize the discharge of sewage and other pollutants into the water bodies in and around Boston, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.  The BWSC will also pay a civil penalty of $235,000 for violations of the Clean Water Act and will perform a supplemental environmental project worth at least $160,000.

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Overview of Commission

Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) is the owner and operator of a Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4), along with a sanitary sewer system and combined sewer system, that serve approximately 70% of the land area in the City of Boston, Massachusetts. 

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The Clean Water Act (CWA) violations in this matter involve BWSC’s unauthorized discharges to waters of the United States from illicit connections to its MS4, sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), and combined sewer overflows (CSOs), as well as BWSC’s violations of its Phase I MS4 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

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Injunctive Relief

Pursuant to the Decree, BWSC will perform remedial measures, involving the development and implementation of numerous programs, to prevent unauthorized discharges from its MS4, SSS, and CSS, as well as to comply with its Phase I MS4 NPDES permit.  Specifically, BWSC will develop and implement an illicit discharge detection and elimination program; stormwater best management practices implementation program; construction site inspection and enforcement program; industrial facility stormwater pollution prevention program; public education and outreach program; and capacity, management, operation, and maintenance program.

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Health and Environmental Effects

Discharges of untreated sewage from illicit connections to MS4s, SSOs, and CSOs may include bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, suspended solids, nutrients, toxics, and floatable matter that can harm human health and aquatic resources. 

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Pollutant Reductions

The remedial measures required under the Consent Decree will substantially reduce the discharge of these pollutants to waters of the United States. 

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Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)

BWSC will perform a SEP, at a cost of at least $160,000, to implement a leaking sewer lateral lining program for 25 private sewer laterals within the City of Boston, Massachusetts.

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State Partners

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not a party to the Consent Decree.  Pursuant to Section 309(e) of the CWA, the Commonwealth joined this action as a nominal party.

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Civil Penalty

BWSC will pay a civil penalty of $235,000 to the United States within 30 days of the effective date of the settlement. BWSC will perform a SEP, at a cost of at least $160,000, to implement a leaking sewer lateral lining program for 25 private sewer laterals within the City of Boston, Massachusetts.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.  Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For additional information, contact

Amanda J. Helwig
Office of Civil Enforcement
Water Enforcement Division
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-3713
Amanda J. Helwig (   

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