Skip to main content
Press Release

City of Holyoke Settlement Will Address Pollution in Connecticut River

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts

BOSTON – The City of Holyoke has entered into a proposed consent decree with federal and state environmental enforcement authorities agreeing to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act and Massachusetts state law to reduce future sewage discharges into the Connecticut River from the City’s sewer collection and stormwater systems.

The consent decree, filed today in federal court, is the result of an enforcement action brought by the Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). 

As stated in the settlement document, Holyoke discharges pollutants from combined sewer overflow (CSO) into the Connecticut River in violation of its federal and state wastewater discharge permits. In full cooperation with federal and state environmental agencies, the City has taken steps in recent years to address these discharges, including finalizing a CSO long term control plan and eliminating the Jackson Street CSO.  The consent decree will require the City to undertake further sewer separation work that will eliminate or reduce additional CSO discharges.

The City will also conduct sampling of its storm sewer discharges, work to remove illicit connections, and take other actions to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff. The consent decree also includes a $50,000 penalty for past permit violations as a result of CSO discharges. 

In 2019, at the request of the Department of Justice and the Massachusetts Attorney General, the court entered a partial consent decree whereby Holyoke agreed to develop a long-term plan for reducing sewer discharges. The consent decree filed today represents the parties’ proposed final agreement to reduce sewer discharges and would supersede the prior decree.

“Fiercely protecting our environment is a civil and human rights issue and ensuring that every community has clean water is a vital part of that work. This consent decree better protects the residents of Holyoke and every single community that lives along and enjoys the Connecticut River,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “We will continue to require with the full force of the federal government that every community is healthy and safe.” 

“Today’s settlement will significantly reduce pollution in the Connecticut River and improve water quality for the Holyoke community,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Justice Department will continue pursuing environmental justice in communities burdened by pollution in rivers and streams to support the health and safety of all communities.”

“This settlement is good news for Holyoke citizens, and for the health and enjoyment of the Connecticut River and downstream communities. As Holyoke includes historically disadvantaged communities, this settlement is especially important for ensuring that all citizens can enjoy a clean and healthy environment,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “EPA is committed to continuing to work with the city to ensure that residents who live along the Connecticut River have clean and safe water. The timing of this is fortunate, as funding assistance available in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law may help defray costs borne by local ratepayers.”

Holyoke owns and operates a sewer collection system that services approximately 70% of the City, two-thirds of which carries both sewage and stormwater. Most of the time, the combined system transports all wastewater to the facility for treatment. However, during periods of heavy rain the wastewater volume can exceed the capacity of the sewer system or the treatment facility and the excess wastewater will discharge to the Connecticut River without treatment. CSO discharges contain raw sewage and are a major water pollution concern.    

The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Once it is published in the Federal Register, a copy of the consent decree will be available on the Justice Department website at

U.S. Attorney Rollins; AAG Kim; EPA Regional Administrator Cash; Massachusetts Attorney General Campbell; and MassDEP Acting Commissioner Gary Moran made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. LaMacchia of Rollins’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit, Assistant Attorney General I. Andrew Goldberg of Campbell’s Environmental Protection Division, Tonia Bandrowicz of EPA and Henry Friedman of the Environmental Enforcement Section of the Department of Justice handled the matter.

Updated March 22, 2023