BOSTON– Today, EPA Region 1 (New England) announced that for the first time ever, many large property owners in greater Boston will be required to obtain permits to discharge stormwater from their properties.

This announcement comes after years of advocacy by Charles River Watershed Association and Conservation Law Foundation demanding that EPA address untreated stormwater pollution flowing into the Charles, Mystic, and Neponset Rivers.

“Today’s announcement means that commercial, industrial, and institutional properties with large areas of impervious cover will no longer be allowed to pollute area water bodies such as the Charles River with impunity,” said CRWA Executive Director Emily Norton. “Significant contributors to stormwater pollution should do their fair share to reduce stormwater pollution; the entire burden should not fall on municipalities in the Charles River watershed alone.”

Large impervious properties, including big box stores and strip malls, are only about 20% of the land area that drains into the river, but EPA estimates they are the source of up to 70% of the stormwater pollution–and are currently not regulated under the Clean Water Act. 

Stormwater pollution is a major threat to clean rivers and our ability to enjoy them, causing toxic algae blooms, overgrowth of invasive species, and fish kills. Even with as little as 0.25 inches of rainfall, parts of the Charles River see a spike in E. coli bacteria levels that render it unsafe for swimming and boating for several days.

“Charles River Watershed Association applauds this action, but it is only a first step,” said Heather Miller, CRWA General Counsel. “In its announcement, EPA acknowledges that this problem requires urgent action and CRWA expects EPA to move quickly in order to reflect that urgency.”