State Sets New Regulations For Sewage Discharges
BOSTON — The Baker-Polito Administration announced final regulations establishing rules and procedures requiring permittees to notify the public of untreated or partially treated wastewater, including discharges caused by weather events, into the Commonwealth's surface waters.
Discharges of this nature can have negative health impacts and these new rules will ensure that the public has the most up-to-date information on water quality.
"Our Administration continues to take significant steps to implement these new public notification regulations to ensure both greater transparency and awareness of when discharges into local waterbodies occur," said Governor Charlie Baker. "Importantly, Massachusetts residents will now know in a timely fashion when water quality is impacted and potentially unsafe to use, providing the Commonwealth with an important tool to protect public health."
Notifications must be issued within two hours of the discovery of the discharge to specific local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as to any individual who has subscribed to receive such notifications. The regulations also require notifications to be sent to the two largest news organizations that report on local news in nearby communities and be published on permittees' websites. Follow-up reporting to MassDEP will be required monthly. Permittees with combined sewer overflows (CSOs) will also be required to maintain signage at public access points affected by CSO discharges. Furthermore, the regulations will also require municipal boards of health or health departments to issue public health warnings and post signage under certain circumstances.
"With the promulgation of these regulations, the Baker-Polito Administration is seeking to ensure the public will receive timely information related to pollution entering waterbodies," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. "We appreciate the contributions of stakeholders who have advocated for the law and those who provided valuable input for the development of the regulations."
MassDEP kicked off the regulation development process with stakeholder meetings in April 2021. The draft regulations went out for public comment in early October 2021, with two public hearings held in late October. The final regulations benefitted from extensive public comments from watershed advocacy organizations, municipal wastewater officials, and municipal health officials. For more information about the sewer discharge regulations, please visit MassDEP's website.