Following a lawsuit by 10 environmental groups including NSRWA, a long-awaited federal stormwater permit went into effect for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on July 1. The permit requires municipalities to take additional steps to protect rivers, lakes, streams and ponds from polluted stormwater runoff. Contaminated stormwater is the state’s top water pollution problem.

A Remarkable Win for Clean Water

“This is a major victory for water quality throughout the Commonwealth,’’ said Julia Blatt, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance.

At stake was the revised Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, or MS4 permit, which was originally supposed to take effect in July 2017.  Two days before its effective date, U.S. EPA Chief Scott Pruitt unilaterally delayed implementing the permit for another year even though it was already 10 years overdue and had been vetted thoroughly by all stakeholders.  A coalition of nine watershed associations led by the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance sued the US EPA, arguing that Pruitt’s action was illegal, undermined protections to the environment, and put the health of Massachusetts residents and water bodies at risk. The watershed associations include Connecticut River Conservancy, Ipswich River Watershed Association, Jones River Watershed Association, Merrimack River Watershed Council, Mystic River Watershed Association, Neponset River Watershed Association, North and South Rivers Watershed Association, OARS and Taunton River Watershed Alliance.

Faced with the coalition’s lawsuit, EPA chose not to further delay the permit’s implementation, and on July 1, 2018, allowed the stormwater permit to go into effect.

What Will Change

The revised MS4 permit requires towns to update their stormwater management plans, monitor outfall pipes, and prioritize cleanup of the most pressing problems, such as the discharge of untreated sewage into nearby waterways via storm drains.  The permit also requires public outreach, stormwater recharge, and “good housekeeping” practices such as storm drain cleaning and street sweeping.

Read more about the MS4 permit here.