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Report: Industy Dumping Excessive Pollutants Into Massachusetts Waterways

The Connecticut River as it winds through Massachusetts

    Industries in Massachusetts are regularly releasing chemicals, beyond legal limits, into rivers and streams, according to a new report from the Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center.

   The report reviewed Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017 and found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits across the country.  Further, the report said a majority faced no penalties from the federal government or states for non-compliance.

    In Massachusetts, industries dumped chemicals exceeding their permitted limits 124 times during the 21 month period, according to Elizabeth Berg, of the Frontier Group, and one of the authors of the report.

   " Here in Massachusetts, nearly 54 percent of major industrial facilities exceeded pollution limits at least once," during the time period the report covered, said Berg. " The majority of these instances were in waterways that were already heavily polluted."

   Among the violators listed in the report are Crane & Co. which reported exceeding pollution limits in the Housatonic River four times, and the now-closed Southworth paper company in Turners Falls.   The report said the Texas Instruments facility in Attleboro poured pollutants in excess of its permit limits 13 times into Coopers Pond. One violation was 500 percent beyond the permit limit. Wyman-Gordon Company in North Grafton also exceeded its permit 13 times.

   Berg said the study found violators were often not fined, or the amount was too low to be a real deterrence.

   " Thousands of times across the country, industrial facilities have released more pollution than they were permitted to, but that is just the tip of the iceberg," said Berg, who explained " Many facilities  have further violated the Clean Water Act by failing inspections, or filing incomplete reports."

   The report said in each year from 2011-2017, an average of 27,849 facilities reported non-compliance with Clean Water Act permits across the country, but less than half faced any action from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or state regulators.

   Instead of strengthening enforcement, the Trump administration is proposing to weaken Clean Water Act regulations and slash the EPA’s enforcement program by more than $30 million, according to Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts.

  " It is time for Massachusetts residents to speak up and tell our officials that we need clear water now," declared Hellerstein.

   In Massachusetts, staffing levels at the state Department of Environmental Protection have been reduced by 30 percent during the last decade. The result, according to Gabby Queenan, policy director for the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, has been enforcement actions for serious pollution violations have dropped by more than half.

    " By failing to adequately fund our state environmental agencies we  are failing current and future generations who deserve clean water," said Queenan.

    The activists said 40 percent of Massachusetts rivers and streams are considered too polluted for fishing, swimming and boating.


Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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