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Under the terms of a Consent Decree filed in federal court, the city of Chicopee, Mass., will upgrade its sewer system to abate pollutant discharges from its combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and pay a fine of $115,000. For many years, the city of Chicopee’s sewage system has resulted in discharges of untreated sewage and storm water into the Chicopee and Connecticut rivers. Under the agreement, the city will take actions to reduce discharges of untreated CSOs, which will enhance fishing and recreational opportunities in the two rivers, and will also address longstanding problems in some Chicopee neighborhoods that have suffered from sewer backups.
The Consent Decree requires Chicopee to separate sewage collection pipes from the municipal storm water collection system, modify sewer structures or provide treatment of sewer discharges in accordance with short-term and long-term schedules, the latter of which extends over 20 years. Recognizing the importance and need to complete the sewer upgrades, the city has already begun to implement the first phase of the CSO abatement work, which is expected to cost more than $35 million and which will reduce the volume of untreated CSO discharges by 56%. Under the agreement, the city will develop and implement a long-term plan for addressing the remaining CSO discharges that will be reviewed and approved by EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), and will pay a fine of $115,000 for past violations of the Clean Water Act, including dry weather CSO discharges.
“This is a victory for the public health of the citizens of Chicopee,” stated U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan. “The city of Chicopee’s willingness to invest $35 million in the first phase of the abatement work, which it has already begun to implement, shows the city’s commitment to the well-being of its citizens. These important sewer upgrades will improve the water quality within the city by significantly reducing the levels of viruses, bacteria and other toxins in the storm water collection system. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to working with its law enforcement partners to protect the public’s health by enforcing federal and state environmental laws.”
Currently, the city’s CSOs discharge an estimated 466 million gal of untreated combined sewage annually, with the most active CSOs discharging up to 77 days in a typical year. The overflows occur when the city’s wastewater collection system, which carries both sewage and storm water, exceeds its capacity, causing untreated sewage and storm water to be discharged through the CSO outfall pipes. The discharges occur after rainstorms and wet weather events. CSOs pose a significant threat to water quality, carrying viruses, bacteria and other biological pathogens as well as industrial waste and toxic materials.
“Through this agreement Chicopee has shown a real commitment to rid the city of its longstanding sewage problems,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “The city’s agreement to eliminate CSOs will not only ensure that the city meets all federal and state water quality standards and regulatory requirements, it will also benefit the citizens of Chicopee by significantly improving water quality in the Chicopee and Connecticut rivers, which are important natural resources and great assets to the city.”
“As a result of this settlement, the Connecticut and Chicopee rivers will be cleaner, and the citizens of western Massachusetts will enjoy better water quality,” Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said. “The city of Chicopee has made a commitment to its citizens, and my office will continue to work with law enforcement to protect and preserve our natural
Chicopee has recently completed several “Phase 1” sewer projects, including: completing the separation of storm water discharges from the sanitary sewers in the Sandy Hill area; and construction of CSO structure modifications in the Lower Montgomery Street and Montgomery Street/Sheridan Street areas. Remaining Phase 1 projects include: construction of a system to disinfect the wastewater bypassed around secondary treatment at the city’s water pollution control facility during wet-weather conditions; modification of the Paderewski Street pump station, construction of a satellite treatment facility in the Jones Ferry area to provide screening and disinfection of combined sewer discharges prior to discharge to the Connecticut River; and sewer separation in the Britton Street area.
“The significant steps being taken by the city of Chicopee to abate its CSO discharges, together with similar CSO projects in Holyoke and Springfield, will result in cleaner Connecticut and Chicopee rivers, and will protect these natural resources for generations to come,” said Massachusetts DEP Commissioner Robert W. Golledge, Jr.
The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Goodwin in U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan’s Office; Man Chak Ng, EPA Enforcement Counsel in EPA Regional Administrator Robert W. Varney’s Office; and Assistant Attorney General Siu Tip Lam in Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly’s Environmental Protection Division. Notice of the Consent Decree will be published in the Federal Register and public comments will be received for a period of 30 days.