Lawrence Settles with EPA Over Merrimack River Sewage Issues

One of Haverhill’s upriver neighbors is pledging to do more to prevent untreated sewage from entering the Merrimack River.

The City of Lawrence entered into a consent decree Thursday with the U.S. Department of Justice to address violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with sewer overflows and the discharge of contaminated stormwater.

“Unlawful discharges of pollutants from cities and towns during storm events remain among the most significant challenges to improving water quality in New England,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “By entering into this consent decree, the City of Lawrence has agreed to take significant steps to improve water quality and the quality of life along the Merrimack River corridor.”

The consent decree is the result of a federal enforcement action brought by the justice department, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The complaint alleges that Lawrence discharged untreated sewage without permit authorization and violated conditions of its permit controlling stormwater discharges.

“This settlement ensures progress will be made in controlling major sources of pollution to the Merrimack River,” said Curt Spalding, administrator, EPA’s New England region. “We welcome this progress toward restoring the River and look forward to the day when it is safe for all kinds of recreation.”

The settlement imposes a schedule for the city to develop sewer system management programs to investigate and rehabilitate its assets, minimizing the discharge of untreated sewage. In addition, the city will institute programs to detect and eliminate sources of wastewater contamination of its stormwater system, as well as control runoff from land redevelopment projects.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Once it is published in the Federal Register, a copy of the consent decree will be available on the Justice Department Web site at