The U.S. Environmental Department (EPA) announced recently that the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts, has entered into a Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), to address violations of the Clean Water Act.
Consent Decrees are the result of federal enforcement actions brought by the DOJ, on behalf of the EPA. According to the decree, Lawrence discharged contaminated stormwater and sewer overflows into the Merrimack River without authorization, violating the conditions of its stormwater control permit.
"Unlawful discharges of pollutants from cities and towns during storm events remain among the most significant challenges to improving water quality in New England," said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. "By entering into this Consent Decree, the City of Lawrence has agreed to take significant steps to improve water quality, and the quality of life along the Merrimack River corridor."
According to Curt Spalding, Administrator of the EPA's New England region, the settlement ensures that Lawrence will focus on improving conditions to prevent the release of sewage and untreated stormwater, controlling a major source of pollution to the Merrimack River.
Under the Consent Decree, enforcement actions will be resolved through a strict schedule for the development of a sewer system management program by Lawrence. The program will look into current stormwater and sewage systems and will rehabilitate any assets that do not meet federal and state regulations.
The city will also work to detect and eliminate current sources of waste water contamination and control any runoff resulting from land development projects.
Cities like Lawrence should work with environmental consultants to prevent sewage and stormwater contamination, in compliance with federal laws.