Henry Rosemont, a Newport resident and one of the plaintiffs in NELC’s lawsuit, speaks at an August 2011 news conference by Easton’s beach. Standing with him, from left: John Rumpler (Environment America Senior Attorney) and David Wixted (Newport resident and co-plaintiff).

Providence, RI – On October 18, U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith entered an order approving a comprehensive consent decree that resolves a longstanding NELC enforcement action against the City of Newport, RI.

In 2008, after several meetings with city officials, NELC attorneys filed suit on behalf of Environment Rhode Island and four Newport residents to end decades of Clean Water Act violations at this historic port. The suit alleged that Newport allowed sewer overflows to discharge directly to Newport Harbor during rainstorms and snow melt, causing swimming beaches and shellfish beds to be permanently closed. In addition, the suit alleged, the city collected and discharged untreated stormwater to nearby Easton’s Beach, thus closing two of Rhode Island’s most popular beaches after heavy rains.

Under the 2011 decree, negotiated with the assistance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city must implement a detailed set of remedial measures – including storm sewer separation, reduction of inflow and infiltration, treatment plant optimization, and sewer line upgrades – according to a specified schedule, with a goal of ending all over- flows to Newport Harbor by mid-2018.

Newport must also install and operate a stormwater treatment system for its discharges to Easton’s Bay, and must meet specified water quality targets with such discharge.

“Newport’s waters are treasured by all Rhode Islanders – they are vital to our ecology, economy, and quality of life,” said John Rumpler of Environment Rhode Island.“The city’s decision to take responsibility for ending its pollution will be appreciated for generations to come.”