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Business Owners Protest EPA Stormwater Regulations

Business and property owners from Milford, Bellingham and Franklin told federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials on May 12 that proposed regulations to manage stormwater runoff into the Charles River should be delayed and could put them out of business.

EPA officials projected the cost of compliance as ranging from $5,100 to $117,600 per acre, depending upon soil types in affected areas. Anyone with impervious surfaces – roofs and pavement – larger than two acres must comply with the new regulations.

"This thing is like a freight train coming at us," said Vinnie Cataldo of Mendon, whose business is based in Bellingham. "You're going to put all of us out of business," he continued. "It seems like you're really railroading us."

Phyllis Ahearn, a resident of the Laurelwood condominium complex in Milford, attended the session with several other fellow condo owners to learn more about the proposed regulations. They all needed to go home and research how the new regulations would affect them, she said.

More than 150 people attended the EPA's public meeting at the Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School in Franklin to hear about the proposed rules. "We didn't expect to see so many people," said Ken Moraff, deputy director, Office of Ecosystem Protection, in the EPA's Boston office, as he began an hour-long presentation by EPA officials.

"The stormwater issue is a larger issue than the three towns and the Charles River. It's an issue across New England and the country," he said. Similar programs are underway in Maine, Vermont and the Washington, D.C. area, Moraff explained.

"We're very much driven by the science here," he said. We have studied this river extensively. All of the research points to stormwater as the last pollution source that needs to be addressed," Moraff said. "We're really looking to design a fair system," he said, adding, "We're looking for everybody to do their fair share."

Mark Vorhees with the EPA said that excessive phosphorous in the river is leading to the growth of nutrients that are causing excessive algae and plant growth. "It's a very challenging thing to deal with in the river because it's so ubiquitous," he said.

Bill Walsh-Rogalski, a lawyer with the EPA, said that businesses and towns should work together to reduce the costs of mitigating the phosphorous levels in the river.

During the 90-minute question-and-answer session that followed the EPA presentation, numerous businessmen and property owners spoke out against the proposal. "If I had to do that at $117,000 per acre, that would put me out of business," said one person at the meeting. "No one's trying to be unreasonable, but you're putting out a proposal where we have no options," said another person.

The most commonly asked question was why the three towns were selected. EPA officials said they were selected because they are at the beginning of the Charles River, and any improvements in the water quality would be able to be measured downstream.

Milford Town Engineer Michael Santora also cautioned the audience that the EPA's assertion that businesses could lower their costs by joining a municipal approach to stormwater management was premature, since the three towns have not even begun to study the issue. "We're still a long way from deciding," he said in response to Vorhees' comment that "We're strongly supporting the idea of developing that municipal approach."

Following the session, Barry Feingold, president and chief executive officer of the Milford Area Chamber of Commerce (MACC), commented that, "I think it's pretty clear that they have a lot of work to do. They need to do their homework." The EPA shouldn't impose the regulations until they "have the three towns on board," he said.

Formal comments for the EPA's official record can be made at a public hearing scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on June 22 at the Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School in Franklin.




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