On Friday, September 22, 2017 the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance and nine watershed groups from across the state filed suit in Boston’s federal district court asking the court to vacate the EPA’s one-year delay in implementing the state’s new stormwater permit. Joining Mass Rivers were watershed groups representing the Connecticut; Mystic; Taunton; Merrimack; Ipswich; North and South; Jones; Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord; and Neponset Rivers.

The North and South Rivers Watershed Association saw the importance in backing this action to ensure that progress is made on reducing stormwater pollution. Many towns on the South Shore are leading the way in terms of public education, upgrading their stormwater systems, and this permit provides the towns the support they need to address these issues.

Samantha Woods, NSRWA Executive Director, said “We see this as a positive effort to support our towns in reducing stormwater pollution. Many of our communities have begun planning and the stay has created confusion as to what to do and how to plan and budget without the permit in place.”

The EPA placed a stay on the implementation of a permit that was negotiated over 9 years with extensive opportunity for public input. Only two communities in the state appealed the permit, and neither of those was on the South Shore. The permit, known as the “MS4,” for small municipal separate storm sewer systems, regulates stormwater pollution under the federal Clean Water Act.  Stormwater, which runs off land, roads and buildings when it rains, carries fertilizer pollution, harmful bacteria, oil, gas, toxic metals, and salt into nearby waterways.

“The communities in our watershed have been preparing for several years to comply with the new permit,” said Woods. “People want cleaner rivers and beaches, and we’ve been working with our towns on public outreach materials to help them achieve their goals. Currently the water quality in our rivers doesn’t support year-round shellfishing, and ponds in our area have suffered from toxic algae blooms. This permit helps our towns to prioritize mapping, planning, upgrading aging infrastructure and reducing pollution to existing impaired water bodies while preventing further water pollution through increased maintenance, such as street sweeping and stormdrain cleaning. The permits allow for the towns to create their own plans and provides a reasonable timeline to implement their plans.”

The NSRWA supports the work of the towns on the South Shore and wants to help the towns balance the need for clean water with their very real budget constraints.  The economic benefit of having clean water is great, our quality of life is improved when we have clean healthy water that we can eat from, swim and boat in, and drink without fear of contamination. We have seen improvements to our water quality in large part because of the Clean Water Act – this permit is simply an extension of that work.

The river and watershed groups are represented by Kevin Cassidy of Earthrise Law Center and Access to Justice’s Irene C. Freidel.

To read more about the lawsuit against the EPA, go to the Globe article.