July 10, 2018

Devens says it is fighting environmental lawsuit

Photo/Grant Welker
Devens, a state-run development spanning part of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley, is battling a lawsuit that says it allowed contaminants to go into the Nashua River.

The Devens Enterprise Commission, which oversees development at the former Fort Devens military base, said Tuesday it is fighting against a lawsuit that alleges Devens has allowed polluted rainwater to enter the Nashua River.

Devens said in a statement that a lawsuit from the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental protection group, seeks to hold it responsible for "alleged deficiencies in a highly praised storm water mitigation system that DEC does not even own."

The Conservation Law Foundation announced the lawsuit last month, saying Devens has been discharging harmful pollutants into the river in violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act. The release of petroleum hydrocarbons, nitrogen, metals and other contaminants puts the health of people living nearby at risk, it said.

The Devens Enterprise Commission, which acts as the governing body for the development, and MassDevelopment, the state arm that owns much of the land, were both defendants in the lawsuit. Devens itself is part of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley.

Devens said Tuesday that the health of the Nashua River has actually improved since a storm water mitigation system was installed and that federal permit for the system is now pending before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Devens said it has, in fact, been recognized for its environmentally friendly redevelopment of the former military base.

"This storm water treatment system incorporates current best management practices as cited by multiple outside authorities who have examined it," Devens Enterprise Commission Executive Director Peter Lowitt said in a statement. "In March 2018, Mass Development, which owns the system, filed for the permit. That should have been the end of it."

The former Fort Devens closed in 1996. The 7-square-mile site now includes more than 6 million square feet of commercial, industrial and other space and more than 5,000 workers.

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