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Kilmartin Faults Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management for Blackstone Sewage

Citing damage to Narragansett Bay, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, is asking the Rhode Island congressional delegation to stand firm against a bid by a Massachusetts official to forestall limits on how much nitrogen and phosphorous a wastewater-treatment plant near Worcester is allowed to discharge into the Blackstone River.

In a letter to the senators and representatives, Kilmartin accused the head of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), of taking an "anti-environmental position . . . at the expense of our beautiful (Narragansett) Bay."

In his letter, Kilmartin explained that pollution from the Worcester area, which eventually flows into Narragansett Bay, could cause "the slow bio-chemical strangulation" of that water body. The Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District (UBWPAD) operates a wastewater facility that serves Worcester and surrounding towns. UBWPAD is fighting new limits, complaining that the new limits are too strict.

Kilmartin refers back to a statement by MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As explained by Kilmartin, the MassDEP statement "has just recently fallen into my hands as it was not originally sent to me or to the Department of Environmental Management" even though it was dated last summer.

In that earlier statement, the MassDEP supported UBWPAD's request to continue discharging pollutants into the Blackstone River at levels significantly greater than are allowed under the EPA's 2008 permit."

Kilmartin writes "I write to strenuously oppose and resist MassDEP's attempt to lend its name to an anti-environmental position. In the face of this challenge, Rhode Islanders cannot unilaterally disarm and complacently allow extra-judicial influence."

Kilmartin also writes that the substance of MassDEP's position is unfair "in light of the great sacrifices Rhode Island rate-payers are making to stop pollution of the upper Bay. The treatment plants located in the Ocean State have already cleaned-up or are in the process of doing so. While the Massachusetts situation threatens to fester indefinitely, the Rhode Island permitees are making rapid progress towards meeting those standards."

Kilmartin asks that Senator Jack Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Representative James Langevin and Representative David Cicilline assure that EPA would "stay the course" in pursing stricter limits. Kilmartin's letter aligns the Attorney General's Office with the Environment Council of Rhode Island and the Conservation Law Foundation. In November those groups accused MassDEP of delay.

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