After Threat of Lawsuit, EPA Commits to Reducing Toxic Stormwater Pollution in Charles, Mystic, and Neponset Rivers

Photo: Leatherndevil via CC3.0

September 14, 2022 (BOSTON, MA) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will finally regulate toxic stormwater runoff flowing into three Boston-area rivers. On July 14, 2022, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) threatened to sue the agency if it continued to delay regulation of the pollution from commercial, industrial, and institutional properties surrounding the Charles, Mystic, and Neponset Rivers.  

“During every heavy rainfall, a toxic soup of pollutants flows into our most iconic rivers, threatening water quality, wildlife, and people,” said Heather Govern, CLF’s Vice President of Clean Air and Water. “The EPA has announced a first step to protect these rivers, but the agency must now commit to a firm date when they will issue a draft permit. The longer the permits take, the longer the damage continues.” 

Stormwater runoff from private properties with large areas of paved surfaces, like big box stores, strip malls, private universities, and major apartment complexes, was not previously regulated by EPA. However, these properties contribute a disproportionate amount of polluted runoff to nearby rivers. The EPA’s announcement states that these types of polluters will be required to comply with a Clean Water Act permit that includes stormwater reduction measures. 

Stormwater pollution leads to cyanobacteria or toxic algae blooms on all three rivers in the warmer months, which make people and pets sick, and put our favorite activities like swimming, boating, and kayaking at risk.  

Prior to CLF and CWRA notifying EPA that the groups would file a lawsuit if this pollution was not addressed, CLF and CRWA petitioned the EPA to take this action in 2019 and 2020. 

CLF experts are available for further comment.