Permits include provisions to address changing climate impacts and community concerns
BOSTON – Under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued five final permits for bulk petroleum storage facilities located along Chelsea River (also known as Chelsea Creek). The reissued permits direct the facilities to take actions limiting stormwater and other non-stormwater discharges that can legally be discharged to Chelsea River and specify management practices designed to control pollution from the facilities. The limits and controls will ensure that the discharges do not hurt water quality, harm plants and animals living in the river or affect people’s health. The permits issued by EPA consider impacts of climate change, especially increasing storm severity and flooding.
These National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued by EPA are for the five facilities that receive, store and distribute petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and fuel oil, and they replace permits that were issued in 2014. Petroleum products and additives are received in bulk quantities by ship or barge at marine vessel docks and transferred to aboveground storage tanks located within each facility’s tank farm areas. The petroleum products are transported off-site by tanker truck, ship, or pipeline. The five facilities are Global Companies, LLC Terminal in Revere, Gulf Oil Terminal in Chelsea, Irving Oil Terminal in Revere, Chelsea Sandwich Terminal in Chelsea and Sunoco Logistics East Boston Terminal in Boston.
“EPA has worked very hard to update these clean water permits to ensure that the facilities manage water runoff using the best methods to protect health and our local environment, especially as climate change impacts increase this challenge,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “These updated permits are based on sound science and policy, and they are designed to advance justice and equity, providing tangible public health benefits to local residents who have been overburdened by environmental concerns for far too long. In addition to issuing these permits, EPA will continue working with partners to analyze and help mitigate the cumulative impacts facing communities with environmental justice concerns.”
These permits require the facilities to adapt to and mitigate climate-driven impacts – such as flooding, sea level rise and more intense storms and storm surge – on facility operations. The permits require each facility to develop a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), including an evaluation each year, using updated precautionary data, such as the Massachusetts Coastal Flood Risk Model, of the potential impacts of climate change on discharges of pollutants from its facility. Based on the annual evaluation, each facility must implement control measures, using Best Management Practices that minimize the risk of impacts from major storm and flood events, and account for dry weather flooding, including flooding caused by sea level rise.
To achieve better environmental and public health protection, the permits also include more stringent water quality–based effluent limits, new monitoring requirements for certain parameters based on impairments to designated uses of the Chelsea River and enhanced ongoing ambient monitoring requirements, including a requirement that facilities conduct a bioassessment of ocean depth resources and sediment quality.
EPA’s work developing the reissued permits included enhanced outreach to the surrounding communities (provided in multiple languages) when the permits were issued as drafts seeking public comment. There was significant public input calling on EPA to mitigate the adverse effects of multiple environmental stressors on the affected communities, including Chelsea, Boston and Revere. These impacts – including from water and air pollution – are being borne by underserved and overburdened communities and, moreover, are being worsened by extreme weather precipitated by climate change. EPA’s ongoing oversight will ensure that facilities comply with their permits to protect human health and the environment of nearby communities with environmental justice concerns.
EPA intends to continue to engage with community members to address concerns raised on these permits. To better understand these complex cumulative impacts, building on EPA’s recent announcement of a new national office dedicated to advancing environmental justice and civil rights, EPA is working with partners to explore an initiative to investigate these cumulative impacts in the affected communities. This work requires creating a process that is built with and led by community stakeholders.
Concurrently, EPA has issued a broader policy framework around these permits, outlining its approach to analyzing and considering cumulative impacts, as appropriate, in future permitting and planning actions. If this analysis yields “new information” identifying environmental impacts EPA can address, EPA will consider reopening these permits to propose appropriate modifications – or use the information to inform the next round of permitting. EPA also commits to scrutinize a cumulative impact analysis for evidence of disparate treatment or disparate impact in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act – and commits to a longer term planning initiative to help mitigate the full range of adverse impacts on communities with environmental justice concerns.
Chelsea River is an urban tidal river flowing from the mouth of Mill Creek, between Chelsea and Revere, to Boston’s Inner Harbor, between East Boston and Chelsea. The river is classified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a Class SB water body, meaning the water quality of the river should be able to support wading, swimming, fishing, boating and a healthy fish and aquatic life community. Chelsea River is considered “impaired” because it is not supporting those uses due to pollutants – such as ammonia, dissolved oxygen and petroleum hydrocarbons – and conditions such as turbidity, odor and trash/debris.
EPA is also making efforts on transparency and keeping the public informed of these permits. In their SWPPP, each permittee is required to present the factual basis and analysis of actions taken in sufficient detail to allow EPA, the public or an independent, qualified person to evaluate the reasonableness of the decision. The updated permits are available at this website: https://www.epa.gov/npdes-permits/chelsea-river-bulk-petroleum-storage-facilities-npdes-permits. The SWPPPs for each facility will be posted on this site each year, along with a summary of discharge monitoring data. Additional information is also available to help the public sign up for notifications on any violations, and ways to contact EPA with questions and concerns.