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Suit over Charles River’s pollution dropped — for now

Two environmental groups have dropped a lawsuit aimed at requiring many major property owners in Greater Boston to install new pollution control systems for protecting the Charles River.

The Conservation Law Foundation and the Charles River Watershed Association sued the Environmental Protection Agency in April, seeking to force owners of big commercial properties to use stormwater filtration systems to prevent pollutants such as phosphorus, a major contributor to algae blooms, from flowing into the river. The lawsuit would have affected many properties on the Charles River watershed, which extends from Boston west to Lincoln and Lexington and south to Bellingham and Franklin and includes 35 municipalities.

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The groups withdrew their suit, filed in US District Court in Boston, after the judge declined to extend a deadline in the case.

Christopher Kilian, a senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, said the plaintiffs withdrew the suit in part to allow them to pursue it at a later date, if necessary.

Algae blooms, which make waterways inhospitable for fishing and swimming, continue to plague the Charles. Kilian said he is hopeful that the federal agency will address the problem.

“It continues to be our position,” he said, “that EPA has to recognize that commercial, industrial, and institutional stormwater sources are contributing to major water quality standard violations.”

The EPA’s New England office pledged in a statement that it will “investigate any additional programs that might be necessary to achieve a fishable/swimmable Charles.”

Recently, a real estate trade group, NAIOP Massachusetts, warned that new environmental mandates could cost businesses more than $1 billion to implement.

NAIOP Massachusetts applauded the withdrawal of the lawsuit. Tamara Small, senior vice president of governmental affairs, said future stormwater regulations for the watershed will be created in an open process, not in secretive talks between the EPA and environmental groups.

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“This would have had a dramatic impact on so many property owners in 35 communities,” Small said. “Now that the lawsuit has been dropped, we know there aren’t going to be any ‘behind closed door’ negotiations.”


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.