New Storm Water Permit Designed to Improve Water Quality in Eastern Massachusetts

Communities would be required to continue to build upon storm water management programs

Pollution control measures contained in a draft Clean Water permit would help control excessive pollution from storm water runoff from 84 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.

The new draft permit, known as the North Coastal Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System General Permit, would require communities to continue to build upon storm water management programs designed to reduce pollutants discharged from municipal storm drains to rivers, lakes and bays which they started in the previous permit issued in 2003.

Storm water pollution is a leading cause of surface water quality impairments in Massachusetts, due to elevated levels of nutrients, disease-causing bacteria and other pollutants. The draft permit for the 84 communities is designed specifically to reduce elevated levels of phosphorus in the Charles River and pathogens in the Charles River, Neponset River and the Shawsheen River. When finalized, the permit will apply to communities in a geographic area north to Newbury and Gloucester, west to Wilmington and south to Weymouth.

In this draft permit, EPA has applied the success and knowledge of the past six years of effort by these cities and towns to address a significant source of water pollution. The proposed permit includes “best management practices,” such as removing illegal sewage connections to storm drains, street sweeping, public education and steps to expand the infiltration of storm water rather than diverting storm water into sewer systems. These measures will help prevent water pollution caused by storm water in Massachusetts, EPA said.

“Our work to revise this permit will have tangible benefits for these communities and our environment,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator for EPA’s New England office. “Controlling pollution from storm water will mean fewer days that beaches and shellfish beds are closed due to high bacteria levels, and a healthier environment for everybody to enjoy. We want to make sure that today’s investments provide good returns for a cleaner, healthier environment and vibrant communities.”

The regional Small Municipal General Permit will cover publicly owned storm water systems in urban areas, mostly located in the northeast portion of the Commonwealth. The region covered includes the watersheds of the Charles River, Neponset River and the Shawsheen River, all of which have been the subject of previously approved targeted watershed plans designed to restore these rivers to acceptable state water quality standards.

The new draft permit also follows similar draft municipal storm water permits for urban areas in New Hampshire. In the coming months, EPA expects to release draft permits covering the remaining urbanized areas of Massachusetts, including watersheds in the southeast coastal area of Massachusetts, the greater Merrimack River watershed and in watersheds contributing to Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay.


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