By Joseph D. Elie, Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – The Board of Selectmen agreed at its Jan. 10 meeting to have Town Engineer Jack Perreault attend an oral hearing regarding proposed Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulations that pertain to the Upper Blackstone Treatment Plant. The hearing, which will be held at the 1st U.S. Circuit Court in Boston, will be to discuss the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District's appeal of the EPA's more stringent treatment plant discharge limits on phosphorus and nitrogen.
In 1998, the EPA issued the original permit for the Upper Blackstone plant, which services Worcester and surrounding communities, including a small portion of Shrewsbury. New permits are issued every five years, but local officials are finding the subsequent regulations increasingly onerous. In 2001 the plant received a $180 million upgrade in order to comply with EPA permit requirements. Upper Blackstone officials have estimated the cost of compliance with the latest permit to be an additional $200 million.
Board Chair James Kane said the EPA has “restacked the cards” since the prior permit. Kane asserted that localities simply don's have the financing and time to adhere to the new requirements. Kane also noted that the state's Department of Environmental Protection under Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell has weighed in on the side of the district's appeal.
Last year, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court granted a motion for a stay of the new permit limits for the duration of the appeal process.
In a written statement, the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen said: “While we all want clean air and water, someone must prevail upon the regulatory agencies that we cannot just continue to spend millions of dollars with doubtful or very limited environmental benefit.”