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Dear Neighbors,
Imagine someone dumping 25 gallons of raw sewage into your swimming pool.  Would you be eager to jump in?

That's the ratio of sewage to river water in the Merrimack River after the October discharge of between 8 and 31 million gallons of untreated sewage by the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District, according to calculations by Amesbury Mayor Ken Gray.  Gray testified at a hearing on my bill to institute a statewide sewage discharge notification system.  If our bill passed, residents would know within an hour of combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges if their rivers are unsafe for recreation or public use.

The Merrimack situation was dramatic, but there are smaller discharges in the Mystic River, which runs through our district.    State-wide, CSOs typically discharge hundreds of thousands to millions of gallons of sewage per extreme precipitation event. There are 181 active CSO outfalls throughout the Commonwealth, which collectively discharged 2.8 billion gallons of sewage into rivers and streams in 2011 alone.
"Combined sewer overflows" or CSO's occur when there's a heavy rain; the sewage and stormwater together overflow the dam that usually keeps the sewage out of the river.  This diagram shows how those discharges happen. Separating the sewers prevents the problem but it's very expensive.

The bill would require CSO outfall operators to install discharge flow monitoring meters.  DEP would be required to operate a central website to provide instant email notifications to public health agencies and any resident who signs up, and to install signage at CSO and public access points of safe recreation practices in the waterway.

Projects in Cambridge have closed 6 CSO outfalls and are predicted to reduce average annual CSO volume to Alewife Brook by 85%.

Rep. Denise Provost is lead sponsor of the House version of the CSO notification bill.  She testified that, "It is standard medical advice to avoid contact with water containing sewage.  People deserve information about discharges of sewage into recreational waters, so that they can protect their health and that of their families.”

Others testifying on the bill included Gabby Queenan (Massachusetts Rivers Alliance); Patrick Herron, Martha Ondras and Michael Ripple (Mystic River Watershed Association);  Rusty Russell (Merrimack River Watershed Council); and Katie Friedman (Charles River Watershed Association).
You can learn more about CSOs on the Mystic River Watershed Association's website.
Stay in touch,
Copyright © *Committee to Re-Elect Pat Jehlen, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
CTE Pat Jehlen, 67 Dane St, Somerville MA 02143

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