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The Town of Billerica, Mass., will pay a $250,000 penalty and undertake additional projects, under the terms of a settlement for alleged violations of federal and state clean water laws and government-issued permits.
A civil Complaint and Consent Decree were simultaneously filed today in U.S. District Court in Boston. The Commonwealth also moved to intervene and filed its own Complaint. According to the EPA Complaint, the Town discharged pollutants directly into the Concord River and into a tributary of the Concord River from its water treatment plant without a permit. The discharges contributed to degradation of water quality and impairment of the river habitat in the vicinity.
The Town violated its discharge permit for its facility because it exceeded permitted effluent limits for phosphorus, fecal coliform bacteria, pH, and ammonia nitrogen. The Town also failed to submit discharge monitoring reports, failed to comply with monitoring requirements, and failed to submit infiltration and inflow reporting. Billerica’s discharges of phosphorus contribute to the excessive aquatic plant growth that characterizes the river system. These conditions are the result of an overabundance of nutrients, primarily phosphorus, being discharged to the river.
On top of the civil penalty of $250,000, the Town will implement two supplemental environmental projects at a cost of $50,000. Under the first project, the Town will test for lead in school drinking water and take measures to address elevated lead levels, if they are detected. Exposure to elevated levels of lead can result in adverse health effects, including developmental delays, especially in infants and young children. The second project calls for the town to evaluate, under MassDEP’s direction, whether a disinfectant byproduct (called “N-nitrosodimethylamine” or “NDMA”) is present in the water supply and factors effecting its formation. NDMA is a probable carcinogen that is not currently regulated; more research is underway to determine if it is forming in drinking water supplies and, if so, at what levels. If NDMA is detected in Billerica’s water supply, the town will take measures as required by MassDEP to address its presence.
“Municipalities need to ensure that their treatment plants are operating properly to avoid pollution of the rivers and streams so important to the health of our communities,” MassDEP Acting Commissioner O’Donnell said. “Under this agreement, Billerica will ensure that the plant is adequately treating wastewater and the town will go further by proactively testing for lead in their schools’ drinking water, and will study NDMA in order to help us better understand whether NDMA needs to be regulated.”
Also as part of the settlement, the town will conduct multi-media compliance audits of its wastewater treatment facility and Department of Public Works facility and disclose and correct any violations. The town will also assess and address problems with its wastewater collection system in order to prevent unpermitted discharges of wastewater.
Billerica, a community of approximately 40,000 residents, is located in northeastern Massachusetts. Though predominantly residential, Billerica is home to several high technology firms.