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City of Fall River, EPA, agree to settlement to reduce city flooding, sewer discharges into Taunton River, Mount Hope Bay



BOSTON (Dec. 20, 2021) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Fall River have signed an Administrative Order on Consent committing the City to continue implementing an agreed-upon five-year plan to reduce and treat combined sewer discharges coming from city wastewater pipes into the Taunton River and Mount Hope Bay.

“We are so happy to have an agreement with the City of Fall River to reduce wastewater discharges into the local waterways by implementing a five-year integrated infrastructure plan,” said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Szaro. “These wastewater infrastructure upgrades are important for ensuring the residents of Fall River have clean waterways. The integrated planning process is a smart way for cities to prioritize projects and develop a manageable spending plan that regulators agree to.”

According to a statement by the EPA, Fall River’s wastewater system serves 90,000 residents from Fall River and portions of Westport and Freetown, Massachusetts, and Tiverton, Rhode Island. The system includes many areas of combined sewers, with regular overflows into the Taunton River and Mount Hope Bay. EPA expects that the infrastructure projects Fall River plans to do under the Integrated Plan will improve water quality and will benefit the downstream communities using them.

Since 1992, the City has been addressing Combined Sewer Overflows under a federal court order resulting from a case brought by Conservation Law Foundation. The City has spent over $200 million to address CSOs, including a 38-million-gallon storage tunnel, multiple sewer separation projects and Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion. The work to date has significantly reduced the number and volume of CSO discharges, but many remain.

Fast forward to 2015, and there are still several wastewater infrastructure challenges- both CSOs and Sanitary Sewer Overflows – causing wastewater to discharge directly into Fall River waterways and causing flooding within the City, according to the EPA. Additionally, there was an aging wastewater treatment plant that required rehabilitation and upgrades to meet pollution reduction goals. To manage the infrastructure needs and cost, Fall River needed a plan for prioritizing work and meeting requirements. In 2015 the City drafted an Integrated Plan which evaluated all the City’s Clean Water Act obligations and prioritized them, focusing on projects with the most environmental benefits considering cost. The City revised the spending plan in 2019 and in 2020 the City and EPA agreed on a modified five-year plan focused on infrastructure improvements from 2020-2025.

The Order agreed upon today requires the City to implement the first five years of its Integrated Plan. Fall River estimates it will spend about $20 million per year to:

-Implement specific CSO separation, CSO storage, and infiltration/inflow reduction projects;
-Upgrade pump stations and other sewer facilities (expected to reduce inflow and optimize operation to reduce overflows);
-Implement specific projects to rehabilitate and upgrade the WWTF (the upgrades are designed to allow adding nitrogen removal in the future);
-Optimize the operation of existing CSO chlorination facilities, including specific monitoring of chlorine and bacteria levels in the discharges;
-Study the effectiveness and feasibility of new CSO screening/disinfection facilities (potentially including non-chlorine disinfection), and
-By 2025 create a revised IP addressing future CSO, WWTF and collection system projects.

Overall, the City will spend $126.8 million implementing the first six years of its Integrated Plan.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. MitzySkritzy

    December 21, 2021 at 9:50 am

    Thank you EPA for soaking Fall Rivers already struggling taxpayers by keeping your FEDERAL MANDATE in place. Listen to the glee of this EPA administrator knowingly hurting us here in Fall River… Deborah Szaro

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