A Win for the Charles, Mystic, and Neponset Rivers

Judge tosses EPA’s attempt to dismiss CLF, CRWA lawsuit

Leatherndevil via CC3.0

July 18, 2023 (BOSTON, MA) – A judge has denied an effort from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA). The groups filed the lawsuit in November after the EPA repeatedly failed to take necessary actions to protect the Charles, Mystic, and Neponset Rivers from toxic stormwater runoff. The agency has dragged its feet in issuing the permits needed to limit the pollution draining into the three rivers from commercial, industrial, and institutional properties.

“These iconic rivers are inundated with stormwater pollution that makes boating, fishing, and swimming unsafe,” said Heather Govern, CLF’s Vice President of Clean Air and Water. “The court’s decision today sets a timeline to clean up this problem that has plagued the Charles, Mystic, and Neponset Rivers for far too long. EPA is now on the hook to issue draft permits by September 2024, which is a clear victory for clean water in Greater Boston.”

Stormwater runoff from private properties with large areas of paved surfaces, like big box stores, strip malls, and private universities, was not previously regulated by EPA. These properties contribute a disproportionate amount of polluted runoff to nearby rivers. CLF and CRWA petitioned the EPA to regulate these types of properties along the Charles, Mystic, and Neponset Rivers in 2019 and 2020.

In response to our petitions, EPA announced on September 14, 2022, that certain polluters in the three watersheds will be required to comply with a Clean Water Act permit to reduce stormwater runoff. But EPA has not yet issued permits that will reduce stormwater pollution, which is why CLF and CRWA took EPA to court.

The current case will be paused until September 2024 to give the EPA the opportunity to issue the required permits to clean up the pollution.

Experts are available for further comment.