BOSTON --After months of standoff and failed negotiations, federal environmental officials have filed a lawsuit to force the state to build a $200 million water filtration plant for the Boston area. The Environmental Protection Agency says the state has failed to bring the drinking water up to federal standards.
Massachusetts environmental officials -- who say the water is safe -- accused the EPA of reneging on an agreement they had reached to give them more time to consider the issue. ``We absolutely prefer not to be in court,'' Environmental Affairs Secretary Trudy Coxe said. ``But if they want to have a fight in court they will have a fight, because we believe our case is a really strong one.''
Coxe said she thought she had an agreement with the EPA that would allow the state until October to review water tests and decide whether a filtration plant is needed. But EPA spokesman Payton Flemming said there was no such agreement.
``This should not be a surprise to anyone,'' he said of the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Attorney's office against the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and the Metropolitan District Commission, which oversee the reservoirs and tunnels that bring water to 2 million people in 28 Boston-area communities.
Coxe said the MWRA had agreed after weeks of negotiations to a ``final offer'' from the EPA that would have been included in any legal action brought by the EPA. Under that agreement, the state would also have been obligated to continue planning for the filtration plant and a major new tunnel that brings water into the Boston area. The lawsuit was filed without the agreement, Coxe said.
EPA officials have expressed frustration about the MWRA's water quality, citing tests on the system that have shown high coliform bacteria counts and signs of cryptosporidia and giardia , disease-causing microbes. Federal regulations require large water systems to have filtration plants unless they can prove their water is clean without them.
But state officials counter that a study by a panel of national public health experts last summer found the water was fine. MWRA officials say they treat their water with chlorine and also buy land around reservoirs to protect them from potentially harmful run-off.
If built, the filtration plant would be added onto a new $200 million water treatment facility under construction in Marlboro. AP
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