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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 19, 2016

Federal, State Settlement with Haverhill will Address Pollution of Merrimack River

BOSTON – The City of Haverhill entered into a Consent Decree today with federal and state enforcement authorities agreeing to pay a $125,000 civil penalty and to take critical remedial measures to address pollution the City discharged into the Merrimack and Little Rivers.      

The Consent Decree is the result of an enforcement action brought by the U.S. 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).  The complaints filed simultaneously with the Consent Decree allege that Haverhill discharged pollutants into its storm water drainage system in violation of its permits and failed to properly operate and maintain its sewer system and treatment plant.  

“By entering into this Consent Decree, Haverhill will take the steps necessary to prevent pollutants from entering the Merrimack River and its tributaries,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.  “Haverhill is required to eliminate the flow of pollutants which will result in cleaner discharges and a healthier environmental for all.” 

“We are pleased that, through this settlement, steps will be taken to better protect to the Merrimack and Little Rivers,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “We will continue to work together at all levels of government to protect our natural resources and our residents.”

“This settlement ensures that Haverhill will continue the important work to eliminate unauthorized discharges of pollutants to the Merrimack River. This is a necessary step toward opening this valuable resource to more recreational use by people who live in the area,” said Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator of EPA’s New England office.

“The commitments made in this consent decree will result in significant water quality improvements in the Merrimack River watershed,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “Massachusetts is committed to improving water quality and will continue to work with cities and towns on this important issue.”

The complaints allege that from as early as 2008, Haverhill discharged pollutants from its combined sewer system on 190 occasions during dry and wet weather.  The City continues to discharge untreated storm water containing sewage and other pollutants from its storm water and its combined sewer systems into these waters. 

The Consent Decree requires the City to undertake a comprehensive inspection of its outfalls during the dry and wet weather and submit a report to the EPA of its combined sewer system and storm water outfalls.  It requires the City to continue with electronic monitoring of its combined sewer outfalls for a one year, as well as to maintain electronic monitoring permanently on some of the more problematic outfalls.  When pollutants are found, the City must eliminate the flows conveying the pollutants.  In addition, the City must take action to control runoff from land redevelopment projects. 

The Consent Decree also assesses a $125,000 civil penalty against the City for its Clean Water Act violations.  Haverhill is subject to vigorous reporting requirements to ensure compliance with the terms of the Consent Decree.  If it fails to comply, it may be subject to additional penalties as high as $2,500 per each day of violation. 

Preventing pollutants from contaminating surface waters of the United States is one of the EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives.  Municipal wastewater presents significant health threats to those using contaminated waters for recreational use. 

The 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 http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

U.S. Attorney Ortiz, Attorney General Healey, EPA Regional Administrator Spalding, and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Suuberg, made the announcement today.  The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan M. Poswistilo of Ortiz’s Civil Division and Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg of Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.  

Topic(s): 
Environment
Component(s): 
Updated August 19, 2016