Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement Dist. v. U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency, No. 11-1474 (1st Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
The Blackstone River runs from Worcester, Massachusetts into Rhode Island. It becomes the tidal Seekonk River, flows into the Providence River, and empties into Narragansett Bay. During the industrial revolution, textile mills lined the River. Heavy metals and industrial wastes accumulated behind impoundments and damaged its ecology. Massachusetts and Rhode Island seek to put the River to new economic and recreational uses including tourism, recreation, and commercial fishing, but, as population has increased, sewage processing has not kept up. Conditions have deteriorated for years, posing a threat to public health and commercial fishing. Congress designated the Blackstone River Valley as a National Heritage Corridor in 1986; the EPA formed the Narragansett Bay Project in the 1980s. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have listed the Blackstone River as "impaired" under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1313(d): Rhode Island has also listed the Seekonk and Providence Rivers and Narragansett Bay as impaired. The First Circuit upheld limitations imposed in a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit on discharges from a Massachusetts sewage treatment plant. The plant's responsibility for serious pollution problems in important waterways is clear and cost considerations may not be considered in setting permit limits to assure compliance with state water quality standards.