Lack of Enforcement Against Polluters Contributes to Rhode Island Water Crises
February 10, 2015, PROVIDENCE, RI –Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today for its failure to notify certain commercial, industrial, and institutional properties in Rhode Island (sometimes called CII properties) that they must obtain permits for their stormwater discharges, which is a mandatory requirement under the Clean Water Act. This notice is part of CLF’s continued efforts to enforce protections against stormwater pollution, which causes severe water-quality problems throughout New England.
“EPA has identified many properties around the state that contribute significantly to the stormwater pollution problem that degrade our water bodies. But EPA has failed to take the necessary steps to hold them accountable,” said Tricia K. Jedele, Vice President and Director of Conservation Law Foundation’s Rhode Island Advocacy Center. “These properties aren’t covered by any permits at this time, but they discharge into our vital waters. The result is that taxpayers end up bearing the brunt of the costs associated with stormwater pollution, but the rivers, beaches and drinking water supplies remain contaminated. This suit is aimed at getting EPA to finally take those basic steps that will help to clean up our polluted waters. Everyone who is responsible for stormwater runoff needs to own their share of it or we as a New England community will not be able to solve this serious problem.”
During rain or snowmelt, water run-off from urban streets, parking lots, and construction sites carries oil, grease, sediment, and other pollutants into waterways. According to EPA’s own documentation, stormwater pollution has caused especially severe damage to the waters of Aquidneck Island and Mashapaug Pond. Aquidneck Island has seen a significant increase in beach closures and contamination of one of its drinking water sources as a result of stormwater. Mashapaug Pond’s waters have not been safe for drinking, fishing, or swimming in decades.
“When we moved into our house near Mashapaug Pond ten years ago, my husband and I were thrilled that this pond would be part of our community,” said Ana Quezada, Providence, Rhode Island resident. “We wanted to fish and swim with our children and really enjoy the water. Instead we had to build a fence to keep our children safe from the contaminated water. Now I have a grandchild who also cannot go near the water because it is toxic and unsafe. A house near a polluted lake is not the legacy I wanted to leave my children and grandchildren.”
In the notice of intent to sue, CLF stated that EPA has violated the Clean Water Act by failing to notify certain commercial, industrial, and institutional properties responsible for stormwater runoff in the Mashapaug Pond, Spectacle Pond, Bailey’s Brook, North Easton Pond, and Sakonnet/Cove, and Lawton Brook watersheds. CLF also filed a notice of intent to sue for EPA’s failure to notify operations responsible for stormwater discharges in the Charles River Watershed of Massachusetts. Click here for a full copy of the notice of intent to file.
For more background information please see Conservation Law Foundation’s briefing on stormwater pollution in New England, “Closing the Clean Water Gap: Protecting our Waterways by Making All Polluters Pay.”