$78,000 pollution settlement to benefit local waters

SAXTONS RIVER — The Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC) announced that an agreement has been reached to resolve long-running pollution violations by Chang Farms.

In August, 2015, CRWC and Earthrise Law Center of the Lewis & Clark Law School filed a complaint under the Clean Water Act against Chang Farms in Whately, MA.

Chang Farms is a large grower and distributor of bean sprouts. Their wastewater is treated and discharged to the Connecticut River. Over five years, Chang Farms violated their federal pollution discharge permit in 55 of 60 months, 92 percent of the time, by discharging more pollutants than allowed by law.

Federal and state regulators did not step in to correct the violations, so CRWC used a provision of the Clean Water Act that allows citizen groups to act when government doesn’t.

“When there is illegal pollution discharging to the public’s waters and government has not taken action to fix the problem, federal law lays out a very clear role for citizens to act,” says CRWC Executive Director, Andrew Fisk. “We were frustrated that this problem continued month after month, year after year, and government agencies failed to respond. So we stepped in on behalf of our rivers and the citizens negatively impacted by this pollution.”

CRWC notes that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Services filed an Administrative Consent Order with Penalty and Notice of Noncompliance against Chang Farms in mid-April of 2016, after CRWC’s consent decree had been filed in court.

“Our goal is to make sure the Connecticut River is clean so people can enjoy the river without getting sick, and fish and other wildlife are not harmed,” says CRWC’s MA River Steward, Andrea Donlon. “We appreciate that this is a local farming operation. But you can’t ignore reasonable limits designed to protect the public’s water. The Connecticut River is a national treasure. This section of river is used by thousands of people every year for swimming, boating, paddling, fishing, and more. Everybody has to play by the rules,” notes Donlon.

Chang Farms will work with CRWC to make necessary changes to ensure that its permit limits are met. The agreement ensures additional payments will kick in if Chang Farms doesn’t meet its agreement.

In lieu of a fine paid to the government, Chang Farms will fund two local environmental projects, $18,000 each. The funds will support the Town of Sunderland to improve the town boat ramp on the Connecticut River as well as the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s (PVPC) weekly water quality monitoring program.

PVPC’s bacteria monitoring program was not funded last year, creating a gap in data used to inform the public of E. Coli bacteria levels at popular recreation and river access locations.

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