Around New England

Report: 800 Million Gallons Of Sewage Flowed Into Merrimack River in 2018

March 31, 2019

The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune is reporting that failing sewer pipes dumped more than 800 million gallons of sewage into the Merrimack River in 2018. The paper also reports that statewide, Massachusetts rivers and streams, according to data collected by environmental groups, were depositories for over 3.5 billion gallons of sewage.

According to the Eagle-Tribune’s article, 50 out-dated “overflow pipes” within 5 separate sewer systems dumped the sewage into the Merrimack River along its 117-mile course from Franklin, NH and through the commonwealth. The Merrimack’s mouth is in Newburyport, where it spills into the Atlantic Ocean.

The sewage outflow, the report states, is more than twice what was dumped into the river in 2017.

Much of what flowed into the river, the report adds, was the result of overflow due to, in most cases, heavy rains and runoff that overloads the systems.

“The overflows violate the federal Clean Water Act but the sewage treatment districts, which predate the law, operate under consent agreements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that allow discharges during heavy rains and other events,” the Eagle-Tribune reports.

MA state Rep. Linda Campbell, a Methuen Democrat, is co-sponsoring legislation that will, according to the Eagle-Tribune, “require sewage system operators to notify the public and local boards of health in affected communities within two hours of an overflow.”

The Eagle-Tribune also quotes policy director Gabby Queenan of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance:

“This [proposed] bill is simple: Let the public know when there is sewage in local waterbodies so they can take the necessary precautions.”

There is bipartisan support of the legislation on Beacon Hill in both the House and Senate, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

According to public health officials and environmentalists, untreated sewage in waterways can pose significant health and environmental risks.

The Merrimack River, which begins in Franklin, NH, passes through several cities and large towns before it reaches the ocean, including Concord, Manchester, and Nashua, NH, and Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and Newburyport.

 

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