Clean River Project May Leave Haverhill if Denied More Money; Mayor Says Bill Paid by Ratepayers

Rocky Morrison of the Clean River Project. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Rocky Morrison says his Clean River Project May be forced to end work on the Merrimack in Haverhill if the city cannot give him more money.

Morrison’s operation currently receives $20,000 annually from the city’s water and sewer budget, but he is seeking $65,000 to $70,000 to take on added work requested by the community. So far, he said, the city has offered only $15,000.

“We put in a new proposal because we’re getting so many complaints down by the Groveland bridge, behind the shopping plaza, the new park. All the trash and stuff down there being thrown into the water, shopping carts and all that. My contract only goes from Jaffarian’s to the (Water Street) fire station,” he told WHAV News.

Morrison is proposing more than just cleaning added lengths of the Merrimack River. He said his group would also take care of Little River by Haffner’s service station on Winter Street and clean 12 miles of waterways instead of three.

“In that contract, we actually added a trash bag partnership where we would hit the shorelines, go to homeless camps and swap out trash bags with the full trash bags in the homeless camps to keep the sites clean,” noted Morrison.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said Morrison is paid by the city’s water and sewer ratepayers and “the more we spend on one item, the more the rates go up.”

“I like Rocky. We like dealing with him. I think we were one of the first communities to deal with him and offer him some money. We like what he does, but we can’t put up with demands, saying ‘give me what I want,’” the mayor told WHAV.

Morrison has also recently waged a public battle with state Sen. Diana DiZoglio. He complained a new sewage discharge notification law should have contained penalties for wastewater treatment plants that dump into the river. DiZoglio and others, including the Merrimack River Watershed Council, said the new law was only one of many steps to follow. DiZoglio also questioned the Clean River Project’s spending of public money.

Fiorentini said the city’s water and sewer department and Harbor Commission will be the ones negotiating with the Clean River Project, but he is doubtful the city can pay $65,000. If both sides can’t reach agreement, Morrison said he will leave.

“The residents of Haverhill love to see us down there. We are a big thing in Haverhill. They see out boats. They see us out there working hard, patrolling the water. We found the bullets. We’re always out there finding things that shouldn’t be out there. For the residents to lose us, because we’re going to pull our boats. We’re going to pull our booms. We’re going to pull everything out of Haverhill if we can’t come to a new contract,” he added.

Besides Haverhill, the Clean River Project also receives money from Lowell, Lawrence and Methuen. Morrison said he is also seeking support from Andover.

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