March 5, 2015
Laura McMillan, CFE/Save the Sound: (203) 787 0646
Cindy Sabato, Save the Bay: (401) 272 3540
CFE/SAVE THE SOUND AND SAVE THE BAY ON MASSACHUSETTS STORMWATER PERMIT
Recommendations include green infrastructure, strict timelines, public participation
New Haven, Conn.—Save the Sound, a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and Save The Bay, Rhode Island’s largest environmental non-profit working toward betterment of Narragansett Bay, have submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the agency’s Massachusetts General Permit for Discharge of Stormwater from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4).
The water quality and ecological health of Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay are heavily impacted by stormwater pollution from Massachusetts. Nearly 70 percent of Long Island Sound’s fresh water inputs are delivered by rivers that flow through Massachusetts, and 60 percent of the lands that drain to Narragansett Bay are in Massachusetts. Many of the tidal and coastal waters of these bodies are identified as Section 303(d) waters, meaning they are impaired by nitrogen or pathogens. Impacts include low-oxygen dead zones, toxic algae blooms, damage to coastal marshes, and bacterial pollution that closes beaches.
“From the far western end of Long Island Sound east to Narragansett Bay, twin scourges plague our region’s waters: bacterial pollution and nitrogen poisoning,” said Curt Johnson, executive director of CFE’s Save the Sound program. “Implementation of a strong municipal stormwater permit for Massachusetts will help keep our beaches and shellfish beds open and return life-giving oxygen to our waters. The coastal waters where we swim, fish, and boat provide huge environmental and economic benefits for our region as a whole, and we must join together to protect them. It’s time for EPA to get serious about stopping stormwater pollution into New England’s waters.”
The comments of CFE/Save the Sound and Save The Bay ask that EPA Region 1 strengthen the permit by including:
- clear standards and implementation goals for green infrastructure retrofits of existing impervious surfaces;
- a specified maximum time from the date of discovery, within which all illicit discharges and sanitary sewer overflows must be eliminated;
- a more extensive and specific list of low-impact development measures that must be incorporated into local building codes to reduce stormwater runoff from new developments and redevelopments; and
- more robust public participation in the development of stormwater management plans, specifically an extended public comment period and opportunity for a public hearing.
“Stopping stormwater pollution upstream is a vital step to protecting downstream waters like Long Island Sound,” said Roger Reynolds, legal director of CFE/Save the Sound. “The Sound’s water quality is at serious risk from stormwater runoff each time it rains, with pollutants like bacteria, nitrogen, and phosphorous pouring off paved surfaces, through storm sewers, and ultimately into our bays and harbors. This pollution violates the federal Clean Water Act, and we need the leadership of EPA and the cooperation of every state in the Sound’s watershed to solve it.”
“Stormwater pollution in Massachusetts, where 60 percent of the Narragansett Bay watershed lies, severely impacts water quality throughout the Bay. Reducing nitrogen and other pathogens that enter the Bay at the watershed level in Massachusetts will significantly help us meet water quality goals for Upper Narragansett Bay and will complement actions already taken by regional wastewater treatment plants in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island,” said Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save The Bay.
Save The Bay and other regional environmental organizations have urged the EPA to finalize permits for wastewater treatment plants in the Taunton River watershed in Massachusetts. To meet water quality standards in Mount Hope and Narragansett Bay, nutrients must be reduced in both treatment plant effluent and stormwater that comes from watershed communities.
In February of this year, CFE/Save the Sound and seven other environmental organizations petitioned the EPA for a strengthened nitrogen reduction plan for Long Island Sound that includes Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The petition also demands that EPA use its existing authority to immediately slash nitrogen from urban stormwater, failing sewer pipes and septic systems, and other local sources of nitrogen.
CFE/Save the Sound previously submitted comments in the Connecticut MS4 General Permit Proceedings, and is joining the Connecticut River Watershed Council and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in advocating to EPA for a more ambitious combined sewer overflow reduction plan for Springfield, Massachusetts.
Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE) is a non-profit environmental organization with over 5,500 members in Connecticut and New York. The mission of CFE, and its bi-state program Save the Sound, is to protect and improve the land, air, and water of Connecticut and Long Island Sound. We use legal and scientific expertise and bring people together to achieve results that benefit our environment for current and future generations.
Save The Bay represents thousands of members and supporters committed to preserving, restoring, and protecting the ecological integrity and value of Narragansett Bay and coastal Rhode Island. Our mission is to protect and improve Narragansett Bay and to create a swimmable, fishable, healthy Narragansett Bay accessible to everyone.