Tag Archives: MS4 Permit

MCWRS Reflects on 2016 Successes and Kicks off 2017 with a Bang!

MCWRS wishes to thank all our members and partner organizations for their continued support in 2016. As we launch 2017, we’re taking a look back at last year’s accomplishments.

We fought EPA on the MA MS4 Permit. After EPA issued the Final Permit in April, MCWRS rallied  communities and jointly filed a Petition for Review of the Final Massachusetts Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer General Permit (MS4). The appeal was filed with the Town of Franklin in the First Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals in Boston. Briefing motions were filed in November and the Court is expected to set a briefing schedule soon. For more information, please visit our website.

We continued to advocate for MassDEP’s management of the NPDES program. In April, Governor Baker filed legislation for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to take over the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1. MCWRS President and Chairman, Phil Guerin, provided testimony at the hearing on this bill in May and we submitted a comment letter in June. MCWRS will continue to advocate for this transfer of authority and urge the Governor to refile the legislation this session.

We launched our new visual identity. At the start of 2016, we presented a new look which reflects who we are as an organization and our growing role as the voice for environmental, social, and fiscal responsibility. Our branding was first revealed at the MA Municipal Association (MMA) Trade Show and it helped our materials stand out at the 2016 Symposium.

We expanded our educational opportunities. The Coalition continued to host free workshops in conjunction with our Board meetings. In March, participants heard an update on biosolids disposal regulations and learned about phosphorus removal technologies and capabilities. The June workshop focused on drinking water and featured a presentation on MassDEP’s Assistance Program for Lead in School Drinking Water, as well as an overview of emerging contaminants. Stay tuned for more workshops in 2017!

We had our largest Annual Symposium to date. The Coalition’s 7th Annual Water Resources Strategies Symposium in May was a major success! The event attracted over 115 participants and featured many prominent speakers, including a keynote address from Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and presentations by representatives of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). At the Symposium, MCWRS presented the 2016 Joseph J. Superneau Leadership Award to Ronald Labelle, former Commissioner of the Department of Public Infrastructure for the City of New Bedford who retired in 2016.

We welcomed new members. We welcomed new members in 2016 who joined for the fiscal year 2017, including the City of Melrose, and the towns of Leominster, Pepperell, and Wilbraham. We’re only halfway through the fiscal year, so there’s still time for you to join!

Our Board welcomed a new director and a new VP. The MCWRS Board of Directors welcomed Tom Holder, now the Director of Public Works in Wayland. President and Chairman Phil Guerin, Treasurer Cheri Cousens, and Secretary Bob Ward were reelected to their positions. Vonnie Reis was elected as the Executive Vice President and Vice Chair.

We continued to track important water resources policies, regulations, and issues. From EPA’s nitrogen reduction strategy for the Long Island Sound to MassDEP’s guidelines for performing infiltration/inflow (I/I) analyses, MCWRS continues to alert our members of interesting events, educational opportunities, regulatory hearings, and updates that matter to them.

We’re gearing up for another great year. The Coalition looks forward to more events and continued progress in 2017. Mark your calendar for the 8th Annual Water Resources Strategies Symposium on May 17 at the Marriott Courtyard Boston Marlborough.

EBC’s Water Resources Program Highlights Complex Debate

On November 3, the Environmental Business Council (EBC) of New England hosted a Water Resources Program on the “Ongoing Saga of the Massachusetts Small MS4 Stormwater General Permit – What’s Next?” Thelma Murphy from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1 and Doug Fine from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) presented an overview of the permit and their agencies’ roles in its implementation. Mr. Fine said that MassDEP understands municipalities concerns, and co-signed the Final MS4 General Permit with EPA so it can help with outreach and resources assistance for permittees. He noted that MassDEP has limited funding to assist communities beyond providing public education materials. For additional support, Mr. Fine suggested municipalities join or collaborate with regional stormwater coalitions to share resources and tools.

MCWRS’s President Phil Guerin represented the Coalition on the municipalities panel along with Brutus Cantoreggi from the Town of Franklin, Rich Niles from Amec Foster Wheeler, and Michael Leon from Nutter, McClennen & Fish. The municipalities panel highlighted permit concerns such as burdensome costs and requirements, a lack of funding, no cost-benefit-analysis, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, outdated science, and the regulation of ‘flow.’ Citing the Town of Franklin’s Public Works experience, Mr. Cantoreggi explained that the Town would need to spend half its annual budget just to comply with a phosphorous TMDL. Under EPA’s conditions, municipalities are expected to fix ‘300 years of issues in 20 years.’ As a consultant, Mr. Leon has seen numerous communities struggle with the ‘one-size-fits-all’ permit and addressing even the ‘simple’ tasks, such as eliminating illicit discharges. Often, investigating one illicit discharge to a pipe could uncover 20-30 illegal connections requiring more resources to resolve the issue.

MCWRS President Phil Guerin, Town of Franklin DPW Director Brutus Catoreggi, Michael Leon from Nutter, McClennen & Fish, and Rich Niles from Amec Foster Wheeler present on EBC's Municipalities Panel.

Hamilton Hackney of Greenberg Traurig introduces EBC’s Municipalities Panel, which included MCWRS President Phil Guerin, Town of Franklin DPW Director Brutus Catoreggi, Michael Leon from Nutter, McClennen & Fish, and Rich Niles from Amec Foster Wheeler.

Tom Ward, Vice President of Legal Advocacy, discussed the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) perspective on the MS4 Permit. NAHB’s primary objections include the conversion of a post-construction guidance document into a regulation without appropriate rule-making and EPA’s regulation of rooftops, roadways, and flow. Like Mr. Cantoreggi, Mr. Ward noted that these prescriptive regulations severely thwart a community’s ability to attract development. Mr. Ward argued that EPA is overreaching in its authority by regulating flow and pollution, rather than navigable waters as prescribed by the Clean Water Act. John Hall from the Center for Regulatory Reasonableness (CRR) closed out the program with the Center’s interpretation of the permit. CRR filed an appeal of the permit on behalf of five out-of-state municipalities that fear they will receive a similarly rigid permit. Mr. Hall argued against the permit’s outdated science (particularly dissolved oxygen and phosphorous limits), unattainable limits (such as TMDL and water quality standards), and unrealistic implementation schedule to reach “pre-European conditions.” Each presenter from the municipalities panel, Mr. Ward, and Mr. Hall specifically noted the added struggle communities and permittees face when third-parties file lawsuits, which frequently occurs under these conditions.

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) was scheduled to present, but unfortunately, no one was able to attend the program, leaving its side of the debate unargued. Though there was a lively discussion as to the accuracy of municipal claims of ‘outdated science’ by the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA), the environmental advocacy groups were generally unable to substantiate their claims. CRWA said the Charles River is an economic driver for abutting communities and that people are willing to pay for good water quality. While the opportunity for a more well-rounded discussion and debate was missed with the absence of CLF, we applaud EBC for bringing together a diverse audience for an otherwise successful program on this timely and crucial topic. The Coalition appreciated the opportunity to voice its opinion and advocate for municipalities interests in this ongoing debate. Visit MCWRS’s website to learn more about the Final MS4 General Permit and the Coalition’s joint appeal of the permit with the Town of Franklin.

MCWRS Files Petition in First Circuit Court Appealing Final MA MS4 General Permit

The Massachusetts Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship (MCWRS) announced today that it has jointly filed a Petition for Review of the Final Massachusetts Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer General Permit (MS4) in the First Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals in Boston with the Town of Franklin. The Final Permit was issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 1, and co-signed by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, on April 4, 2016, and takes effect on July 1, 2017. The MS4 permit regulates municipal stormwater discharges under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program.

At issue in the appeal is the standard EPA seeks to apply to discharges from municipal storm sewers, which collect rainfall from streets, buildings, and developed areas. MCWRS, Franklin, and numerous municipalities supporting the appeal contend that certain permit conditions exceed EPA’s authority under the CWA. They go far beyond what Congress ever intended EPA might do to regulate municipal stormwater discharges. The MS4 permit applies to over 260 Massachusetts communities. The costs for communities to meet these new water quality standards vary widely, with independent estimates ranging from $260,000 to $750,000 annually for some medium-sized municipalities.

Permits issued under the NPDES program are first released as a draft subject to a public comment period.  The Massachusetts MS4 Draft General Permit generated over 1,300 individual comments by more than 150 entities, many of them municipalities impacted by the MS4 permit. EPA made some revisions in the final permit, but did not adequately address key issues raised by many municipal interests. The only process to address contentious matters contained in a final NPDES permit is through the courts. MCWRS and the Town of Franklin have thus filed the Petition for Review of the MS4 permit with the First Circuit Court with the expectation that the Court’s interpretation of the municipal stormwater provisions of the CWA will be consistent with that of Massachusetts’ municipalities. The use of the courts to challenge EPA actions is a step frequently employed by environmental advocacy groups in Massachusetts and across the country. This action by MCWRS and the Town of Franklin is very much in keeping with that practice.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship is a coalition of municipalities; public agencies that transport and treat drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater; quasi-government agencies, and private and nonprofit organizations. Members are committed to the principles of stewardship and environmental, social, and fiscal responsibility in protecting water resources and public health. The Coalition promotes using scientifically based, sustainable approaches to realize environmental and community goals. For more information, please visit the Coalition’s website at www.mcwrs.org or contact Kate Barrett at 617-357-5772 or kbarrett@mcwrs.org.

MassDEP Shares Communities’ Concerns about EPA’s Draft MS4 Permit

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1 closed its comment period for the Draft Massachusetts Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit. MCWRS and several of its members submitted comment letters to EPA and our state delegation criticizing various aspects of the permit, largely centered on the challenging or sometimes impossible costs of compliance. The Coalition is not alone in its concerns. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) also stood up to EPA. In the MassDEP letter, Commissioner Martin Suuberg emphasizes the importance of “[preserving] the environmental gains contemplated by the draft permit while doing so in a more achievable, efficient and cost-effective manner.”

MassDEP’s letter highlights several issues and recommendations identified in MCWRS’s letter, including but not limited to:

  • The financial burden for communities to comply with the permit
  • Constrained timelines for cities and towns to develop plans and implement improvements
  • Consistency with the Clean Water Act and applicable standards, which include “additional provisions to ensure that discharges from small MS4s do not cause or contribute to an exceedance of water quality standards” beyond the maximum extent practicable standard, and related cost implications
  • Concerns with administrative and reporting requirements

MassDEP’s letter also points out the need for federal and state agencies to collaborate to harmonize their respective regulations as well as to correct the Fact Sheet and Appendix F of the permit.

MCWRS agrees with MassDEP that while the MS4 permit requirements aim to produce environmental benefits, the permit must consider the significant investment of financial and staff resources needed from municipal governments. Most notably, MCWRS endorses MassDEP’s argument that the costs of compliance “will have significant effect on communities and the final permit should be adjusted to eliminate unnecessary requirements and to consider the timing needed for such significant resources.”

Commissioner Suuberg cites the prohibitively high proposed annual costs, based on the 2010 permit, for three MCWRS member communities: Bellingham, Franklin, and Milford. While the 2014 permit includes lower estimates, MassDEP suggests EPA add contingency costs, operational expenditures, and capital costs for “work related to meeting impaired waters or TMDL requirements” to ensure a “more reasonable cost estimate.” Later, MassDEP points out the cost implications of EPA’s choice of water quality-based effluent limitations. MCWRS hopes EPA seriously considers the comments submitted by MassDEP and Commonwealth communities.

To learn more and hear directly from MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg, plan to attend MCWRS’s 6th Annual Water Resources Strategies Symposium on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 in Marlborough. Commissioner Suuberg will be joined by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew A. Beaton and other regional and national water resources industry leaders. Registration is open until May 6!

EPA Grants Much-Needed Extension of Draft MS4 Permit Comment Period

On December 24, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1 granted an extension of its comment period for the Draft Massachusetts Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit to Friday, February 27, 2015.  Thanks to extension requests submitted by numerous organizations, including MCWRS, its members, and NAIOP Massachusetts, EPA Region 1 changed the original due date of December 29.  MCWRS is thrilled about the extension as it allows for comprehensive and meaningful analysis and comment of this complex document.

EPA Region 1 released the draft permit on September 30, 2014. This permit, once finalized, will establish significant new stormwater management requirements in over 200 communities in the Commonwealth.  While the MS4 permit requirements may produce some environmental benefits, they will require significant work for and investment from municipal governments. Competing demands and dwindling budgets will make complying with the permit challenging or impossible for many municipalities, opening them up to potential enforcement action by regulators.  MCWRS hopes that comments and changes to the permit will uphold environmental needs while addressing the constraints of the permitted communities. Thus, MCWRS urges its members and other interested parties to submit their comments before the comment period closes on February 27, 2015.

As a reminder, any community that may want to appeal the permit when it becomes final must preserve its grounds for appeal through comments on the draft.  Appeals are limited to those issues previously raised during this comment period.  Comments are accepted in the following ways:

  • Via email to Tedder.Newton@epa.gov
  • Via mail to:
    Newton Tedder, US EPA – Region 1
    5 Post Office Square – Suite 100
    Mail Code OEP06-4
    Boston, MA 02109-3912

MCWRS encourages you to let us know what specific issues concern you about the permit by January 16, 2015, so we may incorporate them into our letter.  Please also consider copying us on your letter to EPA.  Visit our website for more information on this and other developing topics.