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Town Officials Decry Proposed EPA Regulations

Town officials from Milford, Bellingham and Franklin met on August 24 to ask the federal elected officials who represent the three towns to help them fight new stormwater management rules proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Staff members working for U.S. Senator John Kerry, U.S. Senator Scott Brown, U.S. Representative James McGovern and U.S. Representative Richard Neal all promised to help the three towns.

"We're in a difficult climate these days and I think it's important that we work together," said Selectmen Chairman Dino DeBartolomeis, who hosted the meeting. Town Engineer Michael Santora said the EPA's own recently concluded study, confirmed that the new regulations will cost each town millions of dollars to implement. For Milford alone, the cost was estimated as high as $110 million.

For a new program that expensive to work, "It has to be viable, it has to be practical, it has to be affordable and it has to have federal aid," DeBartolomeis said. "We're looking at astronomical numbers," said Santora, who noted he has heard that the EPA estimates are going to increase.

To pay for such a program, "We're going to have to set a stormwater utility," Santora added. "You're talking about hundreds of dollars per year per household and people aren't going to take it," he explained. "We're just looking for some reasonableness and some help financially," he added.

"There's no question it's going to have an impact," said Jeffrey Nutting, Franklin's town administrator, about the proposed stormwater regulations. He termed it "insane that three communities in the country are being picked on." Dennis Fraine, his Bellingham counterpart, noted, "There's a real fear factor. The closer it gets the more concerned people are."

State Senator Richard Moore said the three towns need to work together with their congressional delegates to get the EPA to postpone the regulations. "People can't afford that in this economy," he said. He and state Representative John Fernandes have done what they can at the state level by sponsoring a bill to ban phosphorus in lawn fertilizers, he said. The EPA's regulations are designed to reduce phosphorus in the Charles River.

Fernandes called the proposed costs "not even anything close to what the communities can afford." He asked Town Administrator Louis Celozzi, Nutting and Fraine to tell the congressional staff members what their annual town budgets are, and then pointed out that the cost of the EPA's program would be higher than those annual budgets. "We want a clear river," Fernandes said, "but we have to look at other more reaonable and timely ways."

Nutting pointed out that businesses can upgrade their drainage system as they renovate facilities or build new ones, and towns can do things gradually as they can afford them. "Let us figure out how to solve the problems instead of jamming it down our throats," he said. Nutting and Fraine also pointed out that the proposed regulations are driving business from the three towns to communities that don't have to follow them.

"The idea of picking on three towns in the state [makes me] feel like I'm in the twilight zone," said Selectman Brian Murray. "We need you to go back to your bosses and stress the urgency of the situation," he told the federal staffers. "We need help from the federal elected officials to put pressure on the EPA because they're not listening to us," he said.


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