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Press Release

Court Approves City of Holyoke Settlement Addressing Pollution in Connecticut River

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

BOSTON – A consent decree requiring the City of Holyoke to reduce future sewage discharges into the Connecticut River from sewer collection and stormwater systems has been approved in U.S. District Court.

The consent decree was the result of an enforcement action brought by the Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. 

As stated in the consent decree, Holyoke discharges pollutants from combined sewer overflows (CSOs) 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 requires the City to undertake further sewer separation work that will eliminate or reduce additional CSO discharges.

Holyoke 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 approved by the court on Aug. 31, 2023 represents the parties’ final plan for Holyoke to reduce sewer discharges and supersedes the prior decree.

“Protecting our precious waterways from dangerous pollutants is a vital part of the Department’s work. This consent decree will better ensure that Holyoke residents and every single community that enjoys the Connecticut River is safer,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “We commend Holyoke for their ongoing cooperation in developing this improvement plan and for their commitment to protecting the future of the Connecticut River moving forward.” 

“The U.S. EPA is very pleased that the work called for under this settlement will achieve a cleaner and healthier environment for people living in and downstream from Holyoke. This work is especially important because Holyoke includes historically disadvantaged communities. It’s a significant priority for EPA to help ensure that all our citizens are able to enjoy a clean and healthy environment,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash.

“We are grateful to our federal partners for working with us to reach this settlement that will improve the water quality of the Connecticut River, and thus the overall health of Holyoke residents,” said Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell. “My office is committed to creating healthier, safer communities across Massachusetts by fighting environmental injustices like contaminated water and we appreciate the City of Holyoke’s parallel commitment to these important efforts.”

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.    

Acting U.S. Attorney Levy; Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division; EPA Regional Administrator Cash; Attorney General Campbell; and MassDEP Acting Commissioner Gary Moran made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. LaMacchia of the 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 September 13, 2023