BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The Conservation Law Foundation has filed a complaint against Steven Karp and his development company for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act at Karp’s four Newburyport marinas.
The initiative comes from the organization’s litigation office in Montpelier, Vt. Legal officials there say the suit, if served, will focus on the discharge of allegedly impure stormwater emissions by four marinas here — Newburyport Boat Basin at 99 Union Place; Newburyport Harbor Marina, 51 Water St.; Hilton’s Marina, 54 Merrimac St.; and Windward Yacht Yard, 58 Merrimac St.
According to records at the U.S. District Court of the District of Massachusetts, the complaint was filed on Feb. 14.
Zachary Griefen, enforcement litigator with the CLF, stated that Karp’s New England Development officials have not been served with a complaint. CLF officials say that it is possible to file an “intent to file” with the court, while working with the company to rectify conditions.
Chris Skiba, general manager of Newburyport Development, the local division of New England Development that is owned by Karp, yesterday said he had “no comment.”
In its “intent to file” document, the CLF stated that New England Development is discharging impure stormwater directly into the Merrimack River.
Also, the CLF states that NED has failed to obtain a permit that would give it limited permission to dispose of such stormwater runoff.
In addition, the NED “has failed to obtain individual (federal) permit coverage for the process water discharges with its pressure-washing activities.”
The CLF is a not-for-profit organization that its leaders say is focused on protecting the New England environment, including the waters, forests and mountains. It began operations in 1966.
In recent years it has taken an active role in attempting to improve the quality of rivers, lakes and the ocean by prevailing on waterfront organizations to limit the entry of stormwater into those waters.
Its “intent to file” memo lists Karp, top executive of New England Development, as the “person responsible for alleged violations.” It also mentions Newburyport Development LLC, the local division, as party to the alleged offenses.
The complaint alleges that impurities in stormwater (generated by rain and snow melt) are moving from the NED marinas to the river through the following means: pressure washing, paint removal; sanding, dry dock preparation and maintenance; engine maintenance and repairs; and disposal of shipyard liquids.
It states that NED “must develop and implement a stormwater pollution prevention plan” and it must submit to the Environmental Protection Agency “a complete notice of intent to be covered under the Multi-Sector General Permit” that would monitor its emissions into the river.
Griefen declined to provide detailed comment on the proposed suit.
But he indicated that the CLF’s paramount interest is to get NED to alter its operations so that it obtains permits and improves the quality of stormwater emissions.
Griefen appeared unclear as to whether NED was aware of CLF’s concerns. but he said CLF’s “intent to file suit” will be served on NED executives in the “near future.”
“Before you can bring suit, state and federal agencies require a time (and method) to fix a problem,” he said.
Griefen said the CLF is open to giving NED time to assess the problem and develop an action plan of its own.
Karen Richmond, a spokeswoman from the CLF, yesterday said that the organization is open to working with alleged violaters so improvements can be made. She said months can go by between the time the CLF files an “intent to file” and legal action, if any, takes place.
Randall Lyons, business manager for Newburyport Marinas, which operates the four marinas cited, did not respond to a request for comment.
Paul Hogg, municipal harbormaster here, said that “no paperwork or news of lawsuits have reached my desk.”
CLF documents state that “each separate violation of the (Clean Water) Act subjects NED to a penalty of up to $32,500 per day for each violation which occurred between March 15, 2004 and Jan. 12, 2009, and up to $37,500 per day for each violation that occurred after Jan. 12, 2009.”
The CLF states that violations have occurred “since at least 2007.”