Press Release

Press Release Veolia to Pay $1.6 Million for Massive Sewage Spills, Discharges Causing Shellfish Bed Closures in Plymouth Harbor

AG Alleges Violations by Treatment Plant Operator Caused Discharge of Millions of Gallons of Untreated Sewage; Settlement to Include Funding for Improvements to Plymouth Harbor Coastal Ecosystems
For immediate release:
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
  • Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

Media Contact for Veolia to Pay $1.6 Million for Massive Sewage Spills, Discharges Causing Shellfish Bed Closures in Plymouth Harbor

Chloe Gotsis

Boston — A wastewater treatment plant operator has agreed to pay $1.6 million for allegedly failing to properly maintain and operate the Town of Plymouth’s wastewater treatment plant and collection system, discharging thousands of gallons of contaminated wastewater into Plymouth Harbor and 10 million gallons of raw sewage at certain locations in the Town, as well as causing the temporary closure of shellfish beds, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court against Veolia Water North America-Northeast LLC (Veolia) and related companies, requires the company to pay the state a $1.35 million civil penalty, along with $250,000 to a state environmental trust to fund projects to improve the Plymouth Harbor coastal ecosystem.

“By failing to properly maintain and operate wastewater treatment facilities, companies like Veolia are not only violating the law, they are threatening public health and our invaluable coastal water resources,” AG Healey said. “Today’s settlement brings back critical funds to the state and secures needed funding for significant improvements to Plymouth Harbor, local shellfish beds, and our coastal ecosystem.”

“The matter resolved today addresses a significant failure to properly operate and maintain essential infrastructure,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “The resulting failure of the wastewater system required emergency action by the town, MassDEP and other parties to abate the spills and work toward a properly functioning system.”

Veolia, a global provider of wastewater treatment services, operates Plymouth’s treatment plant and collection system, pursuant to a contract with the Town. According to the AG’s complaint, filed in April 2016, Veolia failed to properly maintain the system of pipes that collect and carry wastewater from homes and businesses to the Town’s wastewater treatment facility, resulting in discharges from an extensively corroded force main in December 2015 and January 2016 of over ten million gallons of raw, untreated sewage to wooded lands and other locations around Plymouth, including a tract of land owned by the state.

Veolia also allegedly previously discharged hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated or improperly treated wastewater into Plymouth Harbor resulting in the temporary closure of shellfish beds, including parts of Kingston Bay and Duxbury Bay, due to high fecal coliform levels and the risks posed to human health by eating shellfish from sewage-contaminated waters.

Under the terms of today’s settlement, Veolia will pay $1.35 million to the state in civil penalties and another $250,000 to fund the state’s Marine Mammals and Fisheries Research and Conservation Trust to benefit Plymouth Harbor. This $1.6 million settlement is believed to be the largest ever paid for such alleged violations of the state Clean Waters Act.

The $250,000 environmental trust payment will fund projects to promote and maintain a healthy coastal ecosystem in and around Plymouth Harbor. These projects include surveying shellfish growing areas, including water quality sampling and contributing to the implementation of a planned dye study to track the treatment plant’s effluent in Plymouth Harbor; distributing shellfish seed for planting in areas used by recreational shellfishermen; initiating a volunteer program to monitor and document the health of eelgrass beds; and funding the Division of Marine Fisheries to implement the removal of the Elm Street Dam on the Jones River.

The Town of Plymouth is authorized to discharge treated wastewater pursuant to the terms of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit issued by MassDEP and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Melissa A. Hoffer, Chief of AG Healey’s Energy and Environment Bureau, and Assistant Attorney General I. Andrew Goldberg, of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from former Paralegal Christopher Knecht, previously of the AG’s Environmental Protection Division, and Chief Regional Counsel Shaun P. Walsh and Regional Engineer Jonathan Hobill of MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office.


Media Contact for Veolia to Pay $1.6 Million for Massive Sewage Spills, Discharges Causing Shellfish Bed Closures in Plymouth Harbor

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection 

MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.