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First Circuit Upholds Tight Wastewater Permitting Standards

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 10, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a Massachusetts wastewater treatment plant in an August 3 decision.

But not all are happy with the decision. The Mayor of Worcester, for one, is debating what to do next, in light of the First Circuit’s upholding of the stringent environmental limitations on the Millbury facility, reports the Telegram News.

The treatment plant, which was discharging into the Blackstone River, was appealing the stricter pollution limits of the Environmental Protection Agency.

At the center of this dispute is a law known as the Clean Water Act (CWA), which places limits on the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus that sewage treatment facilities may discharge into bodies of water.

The Congressional intent behind this Act was to maintain the long term viability of the nation's water resources, cites the First Circuit opinion. Under the CWA, the Environmental Protection Agency has authority to enforce these standards through their issuance of permits and licenses.

The Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District challenged the permit limitations for nitrogen, phosphorus and aluminum, citing that the EPA used inadequate and unreliable scientific record when setting the permit's limitations.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals applied the Administrative Procedures Act to determine whether the EPA's actions were "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law."

Mayor Joseph M. Petty of Worcester has indicated that he might appeal the decision, reports the Telegram. If he appeals, the next step would be the U.S. Supreme Court. The First Circuit's decision, he says, places a burden on the taxpayers of Worcester.

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