With a final decision from federal environmental officials on Clean Water Act standards still pending, Congressman John Tierney and Mayor Carolyn Kirk appear to be trying to publicly smooth over a rift that spilled into view last month — and in a way that supports Gloucester's pitch to maintain its waiver from a potential $60 million project.
In the aftermath of a spirited public hearing at which city officials and residents challenged the need for the $60-million sewage plant upgrade, Kirk had chastised Tierney for not lending his full weight to Gloucester's dispute with the Environmental Protection Agency.
That, in turn, led to some pointed back-and-forth between top aides to the two officeholders as the final days of public comment on EPA's intentions regarding the plant were counted down.
Now, with the public comment deadline having passed, Tierney has written a letter to the mayor — and made available to the Times — seeking to spotlighting his most recent efforts on the city's behalf.
In an April 8 "Dear Mayor Kirk" letter, the 6th District Democratic congressman wrote that he had met in Washington with Curt Spalding, the EPA's chief New England administrator, "to continue this office's efforts to seek to achieve a fair and reasonable outcome for Gloucester residents on the pending application for modification of secondary treatment requirements" under the federal Clean Water Act.
The subsequent text of the letter to the mayor emphasizes repeatedly what Tierney casts as his advocacy for the city.
"As I believe you know, at the city's request, my staff and I have been and remain engaged with the EPA's New England regional office, having participated in substantive conference with EPA personnel prior to last month's public meeting at Gloucester City Hall.
"And, again at the city's request, we delivered to EPA representatives at that public meeting's outset a letter addressed to Mr. Spalding articulating the city's concerns with his tentative decision and enclosing a copy of the city's rebuttal to it."