Friday, June 13, 2014

Fall River Water Department Faces Potential $213K EPA Fine

Fall River, MA -- A document generated from the office of the city’s corporation counsel indicates the Fall River water department could be facing a $213,000 Environmental Protection Agency water violation fine.

City Counselor Raymond Mitchell stated that the date of the incident was Sept. 11, 2013, around the time the water department was cited for several violations. The violations include:
  • failure to perform a mandatory five-year update of its risk management plan, 
  • failure to have a management system for the plan, 
  • failure to update a hazard review, and 
  • failure to implement a maintenance program, including furnishing documents pertaining to the maintenance of the chain hoist that lifts large cylinders of chlorine and chlorine detectors.
Corporation Counsel Elizabeth Sousa stated that “There’s been no fine levied against the city. We are in the negotiations process with the EPA.”

City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros said EPA officials asked the administration not to discuss the matter because of the negotiations in response to Mitchell's pressing of the matter regarding the EPA fine.

Dave Deegan, EPA spokesman for the New England region, stated that a possible civil penalty for related violations had not yet been determined. He said that until there is a final settlement or action, the agency will not comment on those issues.

Council President Joseph Camara said that if the EPA didn’t want the issue public, it should not be. But he said the council should have been made aware of the request.  City Counselor Mitchell stated that the counsel should have been made aware in order to prepare for the possibility of the EPA fine because it is a significant amount of money.

In order to keep the public from worrying, Administrator of Community Utilities Terrance Sullivan said the updated report has been filed and procedures at the drinking water plant have not changed. “It’s safe and was safe after the EPA action, it is safe now and we have a pile of documents to say it is safe,” Sullivan said.

Prior to the city claims discussion, the administration had been trying to convince the council to revote on increasing water and sewer rates for supposed underfunded departments.  Despite the lack of support from opposing council members, the City Council did approve a $4.85 million loan order for the water department's Phase 14 Waster System Improvement project to begin in 2016.

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