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Conservation group sues MWRA over chemicals, metals it says pour out of Deer Island

The Conservation Law Foundation today sued the MWRA, charging its not even slapping the wrist out of eastern Massachusetts industrial plants that dump chemicals and metals into the sewers, which then pass through the Deer Island treatment plant - ending up either in Massachusetts Bay or the fertilizer that the agency sell to local golf clubs, landscapers and garden centers.

In the suit, filed in US District Court in Boston, the foundation alleges the MWRA tracks the mercury, cyanide, lead, copper, nickel, zinc, cadmium, chromium, silver and PFAS that come into Deer Island - most of which the plant is not designed to remove - but then does almost nothing with the information:

Since January 2017, MWRA has taken no enforcement action in response to at least 70 instances of noncompliance by Significant Industrial Users (“SIUs”),4 including 15 instances of significant noncompliance by SIUs ...

In its Industrial Waste Reports, MWRA identifies which SIUs are in significant noncompliance, but it does not list what parameter or parameters the SIU violated, or when an SIU was in non-significant noncompliance. ...

When Industrial Users discharge wastewater that exceeds pollutant limits, the Deer Island Treatment Plant does not treat and/or remove all of the Industrial Users’ pollution, and therefore additional pollution is discharged into Massachusetts Bay.

The CLF asks a judge to rule the MWRA, set up to do something about all the pollution and sewage pouring into Boston Harbor, is violating its federal "discharge" permit, and to order it to knock that off, in part by fining the companies that are still dumping substances they shouldn't into the sewers that lead to Deer Island.

PDF icon Complete complaint373.43 KB


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Their complaint is that MWRA is not doing enough wrist-slapping, although I question their competence when they don't quite know where the Deer Island treatment facility is located; hint: it's not in Winthrop.

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Go ahead and plug the Winthrop address in the complaint into Google Maps and let us know what it locates.

(Complaint states that: "MWRA’s Deer Island Treatment Plant, located at 190 Tafts Ave., Winthrop, MA

Voting closed 14

but Deer Island is part of the City of Boston. The sewage plant probably has a Winthrop mailing address and ZIP code for the convenience of the Postal Service, since the only way to reach it by land is through Winthrop.

This is an official map of the Town of Winthrop.

Voting closed 19

Winthrop is where service of process had to happen.

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Why is some water included, but not other parts of the water?

Specifically, why isn't the water included which would connect the piece of the airport with the rest of the town? What's with the anti-peninsula of non-Winthrop water between Snake Island and Coughlin Park, which includes some of the docks at the Winthrop Yacht Club? And what about the island of non-Winthrop which includes part of Yirrell Beach?

Voting closed 9

The buildings on the even side of Commonwealth Ave between St Mary Street and Winslow Road are mostly in Brookline, while the sidewalks are in Boston. The bounds along most of this stretch are right where the building meets the sidewalk, but in several cases a building's façade is in Boston, while the rest of the building is in Brookline. The Massachusetts Interactive Property Map shows this. The buildings on that stretch have Boston addresses.

Voting closed 3

we see that parts of several Logan Airport runways and taxiways are located in Winthrop. Something I never knew until now.

Voting closed 2

Time to make another donation.

Voting closed 3

The CLF is a public nuisance

No one has elected them to represent us with respect to anything.

Their modus is to sue an agency which basically agrees with them on policy although not always in degree [often the EPA] and then "settle out of court" [consent decree typically administered by a Federal Court]. The public ends up picking up the tab and yet we have no say about the remedy which has been imposed.

Instead -- like any other public interest "think tank:

  1. prepare a report
  2. deliver it to the Legislature
  3. agitate for action

or alternatively --- the CLF can sue the actual alleged polluter.

Voting closed 4

The MWRA, a public agency, is ignoring its duty to protect the public, so the CLF is suing to hold them accountable, and somehow this is the CLF's fault?

They're using the best tools available to the public to get OUR government, that WE pay for with our taxes, to do it's job

Voting closed 23

You've missed the point -- tax payers pay for the MA EPA and the US EPA -- Water Users pay for the MWRA

The outcome of the law suit against the MWRA -- will be a consent decree administered by someone appointed by the Federal District Court ordering the MWRA to Clean Up the discharge of these metals.

Since it is virtually impossible to track the metals in the sewerage, barring the introduction of radioactive tracers at the plants in question -- it will be a "he said -- no she said" situation with respect to the source.

The result in exchange for perhaps marginally cleaner discharge into the Bay -- the MWRA rate payers will be on the hook for another pile of equipment designed to clean the metals from the sewerage discharge and the fertilizer sold to golf courses [consolidated, digested purified, dried and sterile solid waste].

What the CLF is doing is analogous to suing the Police Department over the fact that there are criminals out on the streets committing crimes. If the CLF was truly working for public betterment -- they would pro bono sue the alleged polluter perps on behalf of the people harmed by the pollution.

Voting closed 8

All entities named and structured such as Massport [Massachusetts Port Authority], Mass Parking Authority, Mass Convention Center Authority, Mass Water Resources Authority, Mass Turnpike Authority, etc. are funded through user fees.

If MWRA water from the Quabin Reservoir flows out of your taps via your city's or town's pipes, and/or when you flush it gets processed at Deer Island before being discharged into Cape Cod Bay ==> then you are paying for the cost of operating the MWRA.

So all that CLF suit will end-up doing is raising the fees which we get charged for our existing water and sewer service.

Voting closed 9

I said in the very first sentence that MWRA is a public agency, the point you’re making is well-known, but completely irrelevant.

Just read the article please, the suit is intended to force the MWRA to penalize known polluters, in part by levying fines they were supposed to already be collecting. In theory the MWRA will be bringing in more money not less. But in any case, the regulations exist to protect the harbor and it’s not up to the MWRAs discretion on when to enforce them.

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