Massachusetts Sues UAVE LLC For CWA Violations

On Monday, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sued UAVE LLC, owner of a sand and gravel processing facility near the Neponset River, on accusations that the facility violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by polluting the river, river wetlands, and the associated Purgatory Brook tributary so extensively that ecosystems were disappearing, recreational use of the water source was inhibited, and a number of endangered inhabiting species stood to become extinct: the Blanding’s Turtle, Brown Trout, and Boghaunter Dragonfly. 

The complaint, filed in the District of Massachusetts, alleged that stormwater run-off from UAVE contained sediment clouds filled with pollutants that entered the Neponset River via the Purgatory Brook tributary that connected to a sloping driveway leading to the defendant’s facility up on an adjacent hill. While the plaintiff’s pleading failed to specify the specific pollutants of concerns in the stormwater sledge, the writings did confirm that such pollutants were “suffocating the native species and allowing noxious and invasive species to come in and dominate the area.” 

Massachusetts further averred that these chemicals produced expedited undesirable global climate change by interfering with the Neponset River Wetlands’ ability to “store carbon within their plant communities and soil instead of releasing it to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.” Finally, the plaintiff argued that failure to enjoin further stormwater pollution into the river would also pose an increased flooding risk, as the sediment clouds were decreasing the volume of wetlands, which otherwise “function as natural sponges that trap and slowly release water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater, and flood waters.”  

The Clean Water Act bars the discharge of any pollutant into waters of the United States, unless the perpetrator of the pollutants first met requirements laid out in a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While the EPA ultimately retains final say in all permitting mandates, individual states designate their own requirements for intrastate water sources. The State argued that the aforementioned actions of the defendant failed to meet multiple requirements in the Massachusetts NPDES permit, including that a business: must have a stormwater prevention plan that identifies all potential locations where stormwater runoff could occur on site, must “minimize erosion by stabilizing exposed soils,” must not pollute the local water sources to a level unfit for recreation or hydration, shall conduct quarterly inspections of all stormwater outlays for needed repairs or modification, and must prepare an annual report for the EPA. 

The plaintiff sought civil penalties of up to $54,833 per day that the defendant committed CWA violations, court costs, attorney’s fees, and an injunction requiring the defendant “to take appropriate actions to restore the quality of the protected resource areas and waterways impacted by its activities” and “comply with the EPA’s federal Stormwater permit.”

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is represented by the Environmental Protection Division for its Office of the Attorney General.