CLF Sues EPA Over Failure to Address Charles River Pollution


Media Contact:
Josh Block
jblock@clf.org
(617) 850-1709

Growing body of evidence points to serious health concerns

February 25, 2016 (BOSTON, MA) – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) re-filed their lawsuit today against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to implement mandatory stormwater pollution standards in the Charles River watershed. CLF and CRWA voluntarily withdrew their suit in August 2015 in the hope of a negotiated solution and are now re-launching their legal battle with EPA after unsuccessful attempts to find common ground. In their suit, CLF and CRWA allege that EPA has failed in its legal obligation under the Clean Water Act to require large commercial, industrial, and institutional properties to control their polluted runoff.

“While toxic runoff from large parking lots and industrial campuses continues to poison the Charles River, EPA has let the worst polluters off the hook.” said CLF President Bradley Campbell. “It’s time for these companies and institutions to lead the cleanup effort rather than hiding behind unfounded and exaggerated claims about the cost of compliance. The health and safety of this river and the communities surrounding it depend on EPA stepping up to the plate and making these polluters address their fair share of the problem.”

EPA has so far put the entire burden of stormwater control on municipalities rather than private companies and other big sources of pollution. EPA has itself determined that these cities and towns cannot achieve a clean Charles River if EPA fails to develop enforceable measures to address the runoff from these private actors.

A growing body of evidence, including a recent study released by the Royal Society of London, has demonstrated serious public health risks linked to exposure to the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms caused by stormwater runoff into the Charles. Today’s lawsuit is part of CLF’s comprehensive efforts to address the issue of stormwater pollution on a regional level. CLF also has filed a similar suit in Rhode Island.

Bob Zimmerman, Executive Director of CRWA, added, “CRWA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection conducted an extensive study of the Charles which revealed that although commercial, industrial and high density residential properties make up only 20 percent of the land area, they contribute over half of the phosphorus pollution in the river. The need to regulate them is both clear-cut and compelling. If we are going to preserve the Charles River for future generations and not squander the hard work done to date to clean up the river, this is a step we need to take now.”

Spanning 80 miles, the Charles River meanders through 23 communities before ending in the Boston Harbor. During rain or snowmelt, contaminated water drains into the Charles River from Hopkinton, Massachusetts all the way to the Boston Harbor. As a result, public enjoyment of the river is often subject to advisories for fish consumption, unsafe swimming and boating.

CLF experts are available for further comment. A copy of CLF’s filing can be read here.

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