SECTION 1. Chapter 21 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 43 the following section:-
Section 43A. (a) As used in this section, the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings:-
“Combined sewer system”, a sewer system designed to collect and convey storm water runoff and sewage in shared piping.
“Department”, the department of environmental protection.
“Discharge” or “discharging”, a release or diversion of sewage, industrial waste or other effluent, which is untreated or partially treated, including from a combined sewer overflow, that is emitted from an outfall directly or indirectly into waters of the commonwealth.
“Outfall”, an outlet designed for the purpose of allowing a discharge that is part of, or connected to, a combined sewer system, sanitary sewer system or treatment works, including a connection to any such system or facility, intended to allow wastewater to divert or bypass treatment by a facility.
“Permittee”, a person granted a permit under section 43 to operate and maintain a particular outlet for the discharge of pollutants into waters of the commonwealth or a person discharging pollutants from an outlet without a required permit or in violation of the conditions of a valid permit.
(b) A permittee shall issue a public advisory when there is a discharge from the permittee’s outfall, in accordance with this section. The department may allow a permittee to issue a combined advisory message when a weather event or other related occurrence involves more than 1 of the permittee’s outfalls discharging into the same water body or waterway. To continue to inform the public about a discharge or potential environmental hazard from a discharge, a permittee shall update its advisory as required by regulation or directive of the department. The permittee shall make a public announcement in the two largest newspapers in local circulation that public advisories will be issued for discharges and provide information for how the public can register to receive these advisories.
A public advisory shall, to the extent a permittee has the information available and subject to the department’s review, describe in plain language the: (i) outfall’s location; (ii) the approximate time and date when each discharge began and ended; (iii) estimated discharge volume; (iv) overall discharge water quality determined by any pretreatment of the effluent to remove bacteria, solid wastes and other pollutants; (v) waters and land areas affected or expected to be affected by the discharge; (vi) identity of the outfall permittee; (vii) precautionary measures for the public to avoid health risks from contact with effluent; and (viii) information that the department shall prescribe by regulation or directive.
(c) Not later than 2 hours after the discovery of a discharge from the permittee’s outfall, a permittee shall issue a public advisory to the department of public health, the municipal board of health or the health department and town manager or mayor where the outfall is located, and to the department. The department shall adopt regulations relative to the procedures and circumstances in which the permittee must notify municipalities impacted by the outfall; provided, however, notification shall be provided to all municipalities directly affected by such a discharge.
(d) As soon as possible, but not later than 2 hours after discovery of a discharge from the permittee’s outfall, the permittee shall issue a public advisory by email or text messaging to individuals that subscribe to receive notifications about a discharge from the permittee’s outfall. The department may, by regulation, require that permittees provide advisories by other means, including, but not limited to, telephone voice messaging, online and social media.
(e) A permittee shall work with the department to establish the metering, modeling or other method the permittee will use to determine when a discharge occurs at its outfall to comply with the notification requirements of this section. If an outfall will not have metering equipment to detect and transmit reliable information about a discharge within the timeframes established by subsections (c) and (d), the permittee shall apply to the commissioner for authorization to use another method. The commissioner shall approve the proposed method, provided the permittee can obtain reliable information by such method about any discharge from its outfall and issue public advisories within the timeframes established by subsections (c) and (d).
If the proposed method or the current discharge detection capabilities of the permittee’s outfall will not provide timely or reliable information, the commissioner may extend the time for a permittee to issue a public advisory, provided that such time shall be extended only as necessary, and by not more than 24 hours after discovery of the discharge. A permittee that has been granted an extension shall be directed by the department to establish improvements that need to be made, if any, to detect an outfall discharge within the timeframes established by subsections (c) and (d). Upon application of the permittee, the commissioner may waive any requirement under this section related to permittee’s outfall, provided that: (i) the outfall is decommissioned; or (ii) there has not been significant discharge from the outfall, as determined by the department, during the preceding 5 years; and (iii) the waiver will not pose a substantial threat to public health or to the environment. A waiver shall be valid for not more than 5 years. Authorizations and waivers allowed by the commissioner under this subsection shall be in writing and shall specify the conditions for each exception.
(f) The permittee shall install and maintain conspicuous warning signage at the location of its outfall and at public access points to waters affected by a potential discharge from permittee’s outfall as determined by the department, including entrances to boat ramps, piers and designated swimming areas. Signage shall be suitable for its location and be of the size and form of notice as the department shall prescribe in compliance with this section. Each sign shall include the following information using plain language and symbols to (1) identify the existence of the outfall, (2) inform about any weather events that can cause a discharge, (3) warn of the potential threat to public health by recreating in, or using waters and shores affected by a discharge, (4) recommend precautions for safe recreation around affected waters and shores, and (5) provide information for the public to subscribe to notifications about discharges in area waters. Such signage shall conform to all applicable provisions of federal law and related rules and regulations, notwithstanding current permit requirements. The department shall coordinate with the department of conservation and recreation, municipalities, and other landowners that have public access points that may be affected by a discharge, for the placement and maintenance of such signage on public and private property.
(g) The department shall establish and maintain a public website to provide information about discharge notifications sent by permittees to the department under subsection (b). The website shall display information about current outfall discharges in the commonwealth within 24 hours of the department receiving such data, provide an access point for subscriptions to public advisories regarding discharges and timely updates about those discharges.
(h) Not later than May 15 of each year, the department shall issue a report providing a summary of all outfall discharge activity reported for the previous calendar year, including information about total discharge volumes, frequencies and pretreatment of effluent from any outfall discharging during that year into water bodies or waterways of defined regional areas. Annual reports shall be posted on the department’s public website.
SECTION 2. The department shall adopt regulations for the implementation and administration of section 43A of chapter 21 of the General Laws not later than 18 months after the passage of the Act.
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