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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Settlement Agreement Ensures Lawrence Addresses Water Pollution

The City of Lawrence entered into a Consent Decree today with the Department of Justice to address violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with sewer overflows and the discharge of contaminated stormwater.

The Consent Decree is the result of a federal enforcement action brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The complaint filed simultaneously with the Consent Decree alleges that Lawrence discharged untreated sewage without permit authorization and violated conditions of its permit controlling stormwater discharges.

“Unlawful discharges of pollutants from cities and towns during storm events remain among the most significant challenges to improving water quality in New England,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.  “By entering into this Consent Decree, the City of Lawrence has agreed to take significant steps to improve water quality, and the quality of life along the Merrimack River corridor.”

“This settlement ensures progress will be made in controlling major sources of pollution to the Merrimack River,” said Curt Spalding, Administrator of EPA’s New England region.  “We welcome this progress toward restoring the River and look forward to the day when it is safe for all kinds of recreation.”

The Consent Decree imposes a schedule for the City to develop sewer system management programs to investigate and rehabilitate its assets, minimizing the discharge of untreated sewage.  In addition, the City will institute programs to detect and eliminate sources of wastewater contamination of its stormwater system, as well as control runoff from land redevelopment projects.

Preventing sewage from contaminating surface and ground waters of the United States is one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives.  Municipal wastewater presents significant health threats to those using contaminated waters for recreational use and downstream drinking water systems.

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 Web site at http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

U.S. Attorney Ortiz and EPA Regional Administrator Spalding made the announcement today.  The case is being litigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan M. Poswistilo of Ortiz’s Civil Division, Senior Attorney Michael Wagner of the  EPA, and Trial Attorney Brian Donohue of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.   

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Updated April 29, 2015