From: David Abel, The Boston Globe
Published November 10, 2004 12:00 AM

EPA Faults Boston-Area communities on Charles River Pipes

Nov. 10—The US Environmental Protection Agency yesterday ordered four municipalities along the Charles River to remove what officials described as illicit pipes discharging raw sewage into the murky river.

The agency told Brookline, Newton, Waltham, and Watertown officials to remove pipes discharging combined sewer and storm water into the Charles.

The four communities have failed to provide the agency with required progress reports or commit to removing the connections by the end of the year, said the officials, who did not provide a timetable for when the municipalities have to comply with the order.

"By eliminating dozens of illegal sewer discharges, we have been able to significantly improve the quality of water in the Charles," said a statement released by Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England office. "Today's orders will help ensure that we continue our progress."

Public Works officials from the municipalities did not return calls last night.

Brookline town administrator Richard J. Kelliher said the city sent the EPA a progress report in September and has spent more than $1 million to combat the pollution. "We were surprised and disappointed to see this report," Kelliher said. "We have done an awful lot to knock down the level of bacteria in the water. At the end of this day, this is a protracted, complicated problem that was 100 years in the making. But we're going to address it."

The agency's orders are part of an effort to ensure that the river becomes safe year-round for fishing and swimming, officials said.

Last year, the Charles met boating standards 85 percent of the time and swimming standards 46 percent of the time. In 1995, the river met boating standards only 39 percent of the time and swimming standards 19 percent of the time, officials said.

This year, EPA officials graded the Charles a B-minus, reflecting the distance officials have to go improve the river's water quality.

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