Officials in Gloucester have agreed to make $150 million in upgrades to the city’s waste treatment system to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act linked to the discharge of undertreated water into Massachusetts Bay, federal officials said Monday.
US Attorney Rachael Rollins’ office said the settlement requires the city to undertake a construction project to add secondary treatment to its water pollution control facility. Secondary treatment entails a combination of “physical and biological processes that break down many harmful elements in municipal sewage.”
Rollins’ office said Gloucester has been operating without secondary treatment since it was issued a waiver in 2001. The federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection recently determined that the waiver should not be renewed, based on water pollution data indicating the upgrades are needed, the office said in a statement.
“Undertreated sewage from the City’s existing water treatment facility results in a variety of unauthorized discharges into Massachusetts Bay, including disease causing organisms and toxic pollutants,” the statement said.
Gloucester officials have provided “an aggressive schedule” to the EPA and the DEP for design and construction of the facility upgrades, Rollins’s office said. The city’s proposal aims to complete design and bidding for the project by the end of next year, and finish construction by the end of 2027, setting the city on course to be in compliance by March 30, 2028, Rollins’ office said.
“Sewage can carry harmful pollutants, posing potential harm to human health and aquatic organisms,” acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance said in a statement issued by the EPA on Monday. “By reducing discharges into Massachusetts Bay, this settlement will result in cleaner, safer water, benefiting both local communities and the environment.”
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment and can be viewed online, Rollins’s office said.
“Fiercely protecting our environment is a civil and human rights issue,” Rollins said in the statement. “Ensuring that bodies of water are not contaminated with harmful toxins and pollutants remains a vital part of this work.”
City officials in Gloucester could not immediately be reached for comment Monday night.