Blackstone Battle Goes to Mediation, EPA and City Forced to Talk

By Dyanna Quizon, Esq. on January 19, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to move the Blackstone battle between the Environmental Protection Agency and the city of Worcester to mediation, forcing the two parties to sit down and possibly discuss a compromise.

The battle over the Blackstone River has been a long and contentious one. Federal environmental regulators initially stepped in when they became concerned with the levels of pollutant discharge from the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District plant in Millbury. It claimed that the Blackstone River is one of the most polluted in the state and began implementing limits on pollutants discharged from the plant.

The Upper Blackstone plant, on the other hand, started to chafe under the terms and limits of its operating permit, which had became more stringent as the plant attempted to work to meet the EPA's standards.

Although the city of Worcester is one of several communities that sends sewage to the plant, it pays the majority of its operating costs, and its officials began taking issue with the permit's changing requirements.

The EPA's Environmental Appeals Board rejected Upper Blackstone's request for review of the permit's terms, but the First Circuit ordered a stay during the appeal process.

News that First Circuit has sent the issue to mediation was most likely welcomed by several entities supporting compromise. Massachusetts' Department of Environmental Protection had recommended last year that the EPA consider Upper Blackstone's request for a permit modification and work towards mutually-approved nutrient limits.

"MassDEP believes that such a coordinated effort, made possible by the additional time a permit modification would afford, could be a cooperative way for all parties to move forward towards resolution of these longstanding issues," said state DEP commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell.

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