Pilgrim’s on-site industrial wastewater treatment facility has been a source of groundwater contamination for many years – potentially polluting the Plymouth-Carver Sole Source Aquifer as well as Cape Cod Bay. In a Feb. 7, 2014 letter to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), CCBW outlined several concerns related to apparent deficiencies in MassDEP’s regulatory oversight of this facility. Concerns were first raised in 2012; however no action had been taken by MassDEP. The letter served as a formal request for answers from the agency.

The concerns

1)      DEP improperly classifies Pilgrim’s wastewater treatment facility as receiving domestic sewage. Instead, the facility should be classified as industrial, which would require stricter groundwater pollution standards. DEP should immediately reclassify Pilgrim’s wastewater discharge facility as industrial and require compliance with stricter standards.

2)      DEP improperly eliminated pollution limits for chloride and total dissolved solids (TDS) from Pilgrim’s reissued groundwater discharge permit in 2007. When issuing new permits, DEP is supposed to apply pollution limits that are “at least as stringent” as prior permits. DEP is violating its own regulations by eliminating TDS and chloride limits from Pilgrim’s permit. DEP should immediately amend Entergy’s groundwater discharge permit to restore the TDC and chloride discharge limits.

3)      Pilgrim has been noncompliant with DEP’s nitrogen pollution limits for years. DEP typically requires municipal wastewater treatment facilities to meet a maximum nitrogen limit of 10 mg/l.  However, Pilgrim’s nitrogen discharges regularly exceeded that limit by up to twelve times throughout 2012. Nitrogen pollution is a great concern because it causes eutrophication in Cape Cod Bay. Government and private groups dedicate extensive resources to mitigate and clean up nitrogen pollution in the Bay; however Entergy has been allowed to pollute the groundwater that flows into the Bay with nitrogen without any ramifications. DEP should provide documentation of Entergy’s compliance, if any, with DEP’s nitrogen limit of 10 mg/l.

4)      In 2008, Pilgrim installed an industrial sludge press in the wastewater treatment facility, which could be used to extract low level radioactive waste from the facility’s process water. It’s probable that this low level waste is stored on-site, however DEP has not provided information about this process when asked in the past. DEP should provide more information about this process.

Read the full letter here, which contains even more questions about DEP’s apparent lack of oversight of Pilgrim’s wastewater treatment facility. Stay tuned to learn how DEP responds to this formal request.

Update: MassDEP reponded to our letter on Jan. 20, 2015 >>