With news this week of a consent decree between the EPA and Quincy calling for that city to spend in excess of $100 million to fix leaking sewer and stormwater systems to cut pollution flowing into adjoining rivers and Boston Harbor, we see continuing progress on this long-standing problem.
Quincy and many other cities along the East Coast and up the Merrimack River have long used nearby waterways as dumping grounds for overflows from sewage treatment systems that get overloaded during heavy storms. This newspaper has covered the problem of combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, in the Merrimack Valley and on the North Shore, and we applaud efforts to spend money to stop this environmentally damaging trend.
A year ago, Manchester, New Hampshire, and the EPA reached a similar agreement that calls for the city to spend $231 million in coming decades to bring Machester’s sewer and stormwater infrastructure into modern standards.
Just this week, Congresswoman Lori Trahan testified before the House Appropriations Committee about the need for more federal investment to prevent CSOs from polluting waterways like the Merrimack River.
CSOs are a product of combined sewer and stormwater systems, which exist in more than 800 communities across the country, including Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill.
Earlier this year, Trahan reintroduced the Stop Sewage Overflow Act to expand and improve the EPA’s Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program, which is used to award federal grants to states and municipalities for the planning, design and construction of projects to reduce CSOs. She has also successfully pushed alongside fellow federal elected officials representing communities along the Merrimack River for increased EPA investments in the grant program.
Fixing these ancient systems will cost billions of dollars and take decades. For example, the agreement the EPA reached with Quincy requires that work be done by the end of 2034 – 13 years from now.
But these agreements between the cities of Manchester and Quincy, and the EPA, are significant. Couple those with efforts to set up a CSO notification system along the Merrimack and the future looks brighter – and the rivers, cleaner.
Only through major federal, state and local investments and continued public awareness will we see progress on cleaning up our rivers and coastline.