Streams and Wetlands, Pollution of River in Williamsburg

BOSTON MA (4/28/2020) — A Pennsylvania-based solar energy development company has been sued for allegedly damaging protected wetland resources in the town of Williamsburg and illegally polluting the West Branch Mill River, a cold-water fishery, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

The complaint, filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleges that Dynamic Energy Solutions, LLC (Dynamic) disregarded fundamental pollution control requirements for construction sites under federal and state law when it constructed an 18.5-acre solar array on a steep hillside above the West Branch Mill River in Williamsburg. As a result, Dynamic allegedly caused sediment-laden stormwater to discharge in extreme amounts from the array site, eroding the hillside, scouring out perennial and intermittent streams, uprooting trees, destroying streambeds, filling in wetlands with sediment, and causing the river to become brown, in violation of federal and state laws protecting water and wetland resources.

“This careless disregard of federal and state requirements to control stormwater pollution caused irreparable harm to the West Branch Mill River and nearby wetlands,” said AG Healey. “Solar developers who are helping to build our clean energy economy must follow all legal requirements. We will enforce our laws that protect precious natural resources.”

The AG’s complaint alleges that Dynamic’s failure to comply with construction stormwater pollution control requirements altered approximately 97,000 square feet of protected wetlands and more than 41,000 feet of riverfront area and covered the bottom of the West Branch Mill River with the equivalent of more than an acre of sediment pollution. The complaint further alleges that Dynamic’s actions destroyed wildlife habitat and vegetation and changed the flow of the tributaries feeding the West Branch Mill River. The West Branch Mill River is a valuable cold-water fishery that is important to the Northern Spring Salamander and a dragonfly species known as the Ocellated Darner. Dynamic also allegedly failed to comply with an enforcement order issued by Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) requiring the stabilization of the site, stormwater controls, and restoration of the damaged resources.

MassDEP’s Western Regional Office investigated the case and referred it to the AG’s Office for further enforcement.

“The wetlands rules are in place to ensure that projects do not harm valuable water resources,” said MassDEP Regional Director Michael Gorski. “We look forward to a resolution of this case that results in restoration of all natural resources affected.”?

The AG’s Office is seeking civil penalties and a permanent injunction requiring Dynamic to restore the damaged wetlands and other resource areas.

Stormwater pollution is regulated under a variety of federal Clean Water Act permits and is recognized as the largest threat to water quality in the state. Today’s announcement is part of a civil enforcement initiative out of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division that focuses on combatting pollution by enforcing the requirements of the federal Clean Water and Clean Air Acts in Massachusetts, along with applicable state environmental laws. The AG has successfully resolved four cases under this initiative since the program’s launch in 2019. The initiative will continue to protect Massachusetts communities from dangerous pollution, including stormwater pollution.

This case is being handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Nora Chorover of Attorney General Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, with the assistance of Senior Regional Counsel Heather Parent, and technical staff members David Cameron and David Foulis of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office in Springfield.

Contact: Chloe Gotsis (617) 727-2543 chloe.gotsis@mass.gov

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