Protecting the Charles River from Stormwater Pollution

CLF and CRWA petition EPA to clean up river

Photo: Shutterstock

May 9, 2019 (BOSTON, MA) – Conservation Law Foundation, in partnership with Charles River Watershed Association, has filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency to combat stormwater pollution in the Charles River. The petition requests that EPA use its authority to require large properties contaminating the river with polluted runoff to obtain Clean Water Act permits.

“A stew of pollutants is flowing into the Charles every time it rains, threatening decades of efforts to clean up this iconic river,” said Caitlin Peale Sloan, Senior Attorney at CLF. “Stormwater pollution can lead to dangerous cyanobacteria outbreaks, which sicken people and wildlife and have no place in our river. The Charles belongs to everyone, and it’s time we stop giving a free pass to the polluters who are destroying this precious resource.”

Cyanobacteria, more commonly known as blue-green algae because of its color, is caused by too much phosphorus in the river. Cyanobacteria blooms that occur during the hottest months of the year have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, and they are also harmful to pets and wildlife.

During rain or snowmelt, water runoff from urban streets, parking lots, and construction sites carry oil, grease, sediment, phosphorus and other pollutants into the waters of the Charles. CLF’s petition calls on the EPA to require Clean Water Act permits for large properties like big box stores, strip malls, private universities, and major apartment complexes surrounding the river in order to limit the amount of pollution entering the Charles.

“EPA has known for well over a decade that these large properties are contributing more than their fair share of stormwater pollution to the Charles. It is time for EPA to hold these polluters accountable,” said Emily Norton, Executive Director of Charles River Watershed Association.

You can read the petition here.

CLF experts are available for further comment.