Fixing water, sewer infrastructure vital for Merrimack’s future

The height of the summer season season is upon us, and alongside the Merrimack River there’s a burst of exercise  — hundreds of boats of each variety, and tens of hundreds of individuals swimming, wading and fishing all alongside the river. From Lowell’s common riverfront parks to the sandy shores of Plum Island and Salisbury Seaside, the river is being loved as certainly one of our area’s premier outside sources.

However this 12 months has been totally different, and in response to climatologists, it’s a local weather change canary in a coal mine.

After an extended interval of drought, July pounded us with rain — one of many wettest Julys on report. Frequent downpours despatched roughly 200 million gallons of untreated sewage and wastewater spilling into the Merrimack in July alone. As local weather change wreaks havoc on the Earth’s jet stream, we’re seeing a glimpse of our future. We are able to count on to see New England undergo lengthy durations of warmth and drought, punctuated by intense durations of rain. This isn’t the climate that we in New England are used to.

On the Merrimack, the place 5 cities wrestle to deal with rainwater that infiltrates their sewer programs, July has been notable for an unlucky statistic. On most days this month, the river has been too contaminated with micro organism for folks to securely swim or wade.

Why, within the twenty first century, are sewers overflowing attributable to rain? It’s known as a CSO, quick for Mixed Sewer Overflow, the technical time period for the discharge of untreated sewage and stormwater right into a river. This occurs in over 800 cities throughout America, largely in older industrial facilities the place road drains and sewer traces are interconnected. Throughout downpours, sewer crops can’t deal with all of the water coming into them, in order that they discharge a few of it right into a river. It’s a relic of our nation’s industrial previous, and one that’s vastly costly to repair.

However proper now there may be hope to make a serious change in our CSO woes. Gov. Charlie Baker has proposed spending as much as $400 million of the state’s $5.3 billion American Rescue Plan Act funds on water and sewer infrastructure, together with CSOs. The Massachusetts Legislature is drafting its personal proposal. This can be a visionary second to scale back certainly one of local weather change’s main impacts on our rivers and our well being.

The Merrimack has an extended historical past as an industrial river, the place a number of the nation’s first manufacturing facilities had been born — and dumped their waste. Immediately’s Merrimack is way cleaner than a half century in the past. The bustle of the riverfront mills has been changed by an explosion in river-facing exercise — recreation, growth and water-based companies. To not point out that 600,000 folks get their ingesting water from the Merrimack, and that tons of of species of natural world depend on a wholesome river as their residence.

We urge Massachusetts legislators to help spending no less than $400 million on CSO and water-related infrastructure initiatives. This can be a as soon as in a lifetime alternative to make important progress on a messy drawback that has been plaguing our rivers for almost 200 years.

Matthew Thorne is govt director of the Merrimack River Watershed Council. | Fixing water, sewer infrastructure important for Merrimack’s future

Huynh Nguyen

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