Gov. Baker and Local Legislators Laud New Law Notifying Residents of Sewer Discharges

Screen capture of Sen. Diana DiZoglio and Rep. Linda Dean Campbell.

A long-awaited bill aimed at ensuring residents are notified of sewage discharges into the Merrimack River and other waterways was ceremonially signed into law yesterday with cheers from local legislators.

Sen. Diana DiZoglio, a senate co-sponsor of the legislation, appeared online live with Gov. Charlie Baker’s for the signing of “An Act promoting awareness of sewage pollution in public waters.” She called the law “a step in the right direction.”

“Resident are asking, for a start, just to simply be able to get notifications about it. That’s really behind why our region stepped up to the plate so much so on this issue,” she said.

The new, statewide sewage discharge notification system alerts residents when storm waters overload combined sewer overflows, or CSOs, causing raw sewage to make rivers and beaches unsafe. Besides the notifications, DiZoglio said communities need more money to resolve problems. She cited work at a local sewage treatment plant as an example.

“Recently, regarding the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District where EEA (Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs) released a million dollars in funds to be able to update the infrastructure at the Sanitary District so that we could make sure we had a generator in place to make sure those discharges were not happening,” she noted.

Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, also participating in the online ceremony, said the law stems directly from the people’s demands.

“In our cities and towns, this was definitely bottoms-up legislation which is the best of all possible legislation. We had every major policy advocacy group here that helped pushed this over the line.” She noted.

DiZoglio and Campbell specifically thanked the Merrimack River Watershed Council and Mass. River Alliance for raising awareness and resolving to find solutions.

Campbell also discussed next steps that must be taken to protect waterways and the public. “This will generate some urgency on our parts to work even closer with our federal partners to obtain more funding to upgrade our wastewater treatment facilities.”

Baker welcomed the legislation, saying,  “It was one of those bills that gets to your desk that you’re glad it got there. We’re signing it and looking forward to pursuing the implementation associated with it,” he said.

The legislation requires sewage plants throughout the Commonwealth to quickly alert the public whenever they release untreated sewage into a river, via a variety of means such as emails, text messages, websites and reverse 911 telephone calls.

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