Buzzards Bay Coalition sues Marion in Superior Court

Feb 2, 2018

In December, Marion officials revealed that the Buzzards Bay Coalition intended to take legal action against the Town of Marion, saying that the town is in violation of a law meant to curb water pollution in the state.

On January 31, the Buzzards Bay Coalition announced that the lawsuit had officially been filed in Massachusetts' State Superior Court.

The Coalition believes that Marion is in violation of Massachusetts' Clean Water Act, as it continues to operate three unlined sewer lagoons at its wastewater treatment plant, said Marion Town Administrator Paul Dawson in December. Obviously, he added, the Town of Marion doesn't feel the same way.

The three unlined sewer lagoons cover 20 acres at the treatment plant. According to the Coalition, Marion is the only town in the Commonwealth to use this type of sewage system.

"Because they aren’t lined at the bottom, these lagoons allow contaminants to leach into the ground below them," the Coalition said in a press release. The town’s own engineers estimate that these lagoons leak as much as 50,000 gallons every day. State law requires a permit for groundwater discharges over 10,000 per day – something the Marion wastewater treatment plant does not have."

Marion's waters are heavily affected by nitrogen pollution, the Coalition added, as are many other waterways in the Buzzards Bay area. When there is excess nitrogen in water, the pollution fuels the growth of algae that limits oxygen to the water, killing eelgrass beds and harming fish and shellfish species.

In 2017, Marion was told by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it must acquire an updated wastewater treatment permit, which would have required the town to either line the lagoons or phase them out completely.

Marion appealed the permit requirements, claiming that the costs needed to meet upgrade requirements were far too high for the town and residents to bear.

As a result of the appeal, the EPA reversed its course, requiring Marion to line only one of the lagoons, a total space of five acres, to meet permit requirements.

"This is an inadequate resolution that will not eliminate this needless source of pollution to Buzzards Bay," the Coalition said.

The Town of Marion will be represented by attorney Michael Leon in the lawsuit; Leon was the town's legal counsel throughout the wastewater permit appeal.