What is the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection?

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is a state agency responsible for protecting human health and the environment by ensuring clean air and water, the safe management and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes, the timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources. MassDEP is one of five agencies under the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs. MassDEP's role under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution is the guarantor of the people's right to "clean air and water", as well as "the natural scenic, historic and aesthetic qualities of the environment."

How do I get to MassDEP offices?

MassDEP has several offices located throughout the state. Most day-to-day business is handled by the staff in our Regional Offices: 
Boston headquarters
Central Region, Worcester
Northeast Region, Wilmington
Southeast Region, Lakeville
Western Region, Springfield
Wall Experiment Station, Lawrence

What is the difference between MassDEP and EPA?

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) administers state laws and regulations aimed at preventing pollution, protecting natural resources, promoting safe disposal and recycling of wastes, and ensuring timely cleanup of contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers similar federal laws and regulations, but delegates much of its enforcement authority to MassDEP.

If I see an oil or chemical spill, what should I do?

Report an Environmental Emergency or call 888-304-1133. This line operates 24 hours a day.

Who should I call if I witness illegal dumping or some other activity that is harmful to the environment or to public health?

File an Environmental Complaint or call the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force at 617-556-1000 or 888-846-4283 (888-VIOLATE). The Strike Force (a unit staffed by MassDEP, other environmental agencies and the Office of the Attorney General) conducts investigations, carefully builds cases against alleged environmental violations, and takes them to court. Since 1990, a number of individuals prosecuted by the Strike Force have been sentenced to prison.

I have noticed small white "DEP file number" signs posted at various locations, often where construction work is going on. Are these hazardous waste sites?

No. The signs mark locations for which MassDEP's Wetlands Program has issued file numbers for the purpose of tracking projects approved by local conservation commissions. No work proposed for a wetland area or within a 100-foot radius may proceed before a local order of conditions has been issued. Separately, DEP's Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup assigns tracking numbers to confirmed and suspected hazardous waste sites across the state.

I have a garage full of paint, pesticides and other hazardous products. How do I dispose of them?

Many communities schedule hazardous household product collections or pick-ups on a regular basis. Generally, they will accept a range of wastes (including used oil and paint, spent automotive fluids and household chemicals, pesticides, solvents, old batteries and even tires) from residents only. Regional collections are sometimes scheduled, too. Call your town or city hall, the nearest DEP Regional Service Center, or MassDEP's Hazardous Household Products Hotline at 800-343-3420 for additional information. Or see MassDEP's handling and management tips.

My community has a curbside recycling program. Where can I get a bin?

Generally, bins can be purchased from the municipal office that is responsible for solid waste management in your community. In most cases, that will be either the public works department or board of health. Should you have additional questions about recycling, composting or disposal practices, MassDEP's Recycling In Your Community can answer them for you.

There are a lot of branches and other debris in my yard. Can I burn this material?

In most Massachusetts communities, yes, but only between January 15 and May 1, with local fire department permission and under controlled conditions. Brush, cane, driftwood and forestry debris may be burned; grass, hay, leaves and stumps may not. Open burning is not permitted in 22 thickly settled communities. For details, see MassDEP's Answers to Your Burning Questions.

Who do I contact with an odor complaint?

For indoor odor complaints, you should contact your local Board of Health and/or the Department of Public Health (DPH) at 617-727-2700 or EPA at 888-372-7341. For outdoor odor complaints, you should contact your local Board of Health and/or MassDEP at 617-292-5500. Or File a Complaint About Dust, noise, odor, smoke, vehicle idling, emissions or air pollution

If I want to build on property in wetlands, where do I start?

Start with your local zoning board and building department. If the property has wetlands you will have to contact your local Conservation Commission, at which time you may file a Request for Determination of Applicability (RDA) to determine if the project will come under the Wetlands Protection Act. If so, filing of a Notice of Intent with the local Conservation Commission and MassDEP is required.

What is the difference between a cesspool and a septic system?

A cesspool generally consists of a pipe, running form a building, which empties into a single component pit. This arrangement does not allow proper detention of solids or proper distribution of effluent. As a result, effluent overloads the capacity of the soil to remove harmful bacteria and viruses, to remove phosphorus, and to convert ammonia. A conventional system, on the other hand is comprised of a building sewer (a septic tank where solids can settle and both the solids and effluent begin to degrade), distribution lines, which prevent effluent from overloading the soil, a soil absorption system, which further treats the effluent by removing harmful bacteria, viruses, phosphorus, and nitrogen, and a reserve area.

Who conducts a system inspection?

Massachusetts Registered Professional Engineers with a concentration in civil, sanitary or environmental engineering, Massachusetts Registered Sanitarians and Certified Health Officers may perform system inspections. Additionally, board of health members and agents, professional home inspectors, licensed septage haulers, system installers, Engineers in Training (EIT certified with a concentration in civil, sanitary or environmental engineering) and persons with a least one year of experience in system inspection all may conduct inspections, provided that they have attended appropriate training and passed a MassDEP inspectors' exam. To find Title 5 system inspectors and/or soil evaluators, see our Title 5 certified inspector lists or contact your Regional Service Center to have one mailed to you.

How do I know if the property I am interested in is a hazardous waste (21E) site?

The 21E Sites list is available in a searchable format. You may also contact the appropriate Regional Service Center for more information concerning 21E releases in the region.

Am I required to retain a Licensed Site Professional (LSP) to perform a "21E contamination assessment" of my property, which a bank has requested, even though I have no knowledge of a problem?

No, the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) does not require that you retain a LSP to conduct such an assessment. However, just as some lending institutions require a "21E contamination assessment" of property as a condition of financing, they may also make it a condition that a LSP perform the assessment. MassDEP has no control over what the bank may require independent of M.G.L. Chapter 21E and the MCP. However, if contamination is encountered above a reporting threshold during such an assessment, the MCP requires you to report the release to MassDEP, and retain a LSP to oversee any necessary investigations and cleanup.

How do I request a file review?

To inquire about a file review please check with the appropriate Regional Service Center. A file review may be requested either by telephone, in writing, or online. In making the appointment, please indicate as much information as possible (i.e., release tracking number, project location including street address and city or town) to enable the records keeper to locate requested files. All file review appointments must be made in advance.

Who should I contact for information about underground heating oil storage tanks?

If you would like to speak with a member of the MassDEP UST Program staff, please call: 617-556-1035, extension 2. You may also email questions to: dep.ust@state.ma.us. To report a release from a leaking underground storage tank system, please immediately call your local fire department AND the MassDEP 24-hour Emergency Response Line at 1-888-304-1133. Further information can be obtained on MassDEP's UST Web page.

How can I obtain copies of MassDEP regulations?

Many, but not all, may be viewed and downloaded from the Service Center. If you absolutely must have current attested copies of MassDEP regulations, however, they may be purchased only from the Massachusetts State Bookstore, with branches at the State House in Boston (617-727-2834) and State House West in Springfield (413-784-1376).

How do I apply for a MassDEP permit?

Permit application kits may be viewed and downloaded from this website or obtained from the nearest MassDEP Regional Service Center.

My company is moving. What happens with the MassDEP permits I currently hold?

It depends. Some MassDEP permits are site-specific and expire when operations are relocated. Other permits are activity-specific and may be transferred to the new location. Contact the nearest MassDEP Regional Service Center for additional information.