State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell was one of three legislators recognized Sunday by the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance as a champion of river conservation who achieved big wins this year for the environment and public health.
At the association’s annual celebration, Campbell, of Methuen, state Sen. Patricia Jehlen, of Somerville, and former state Rep. Denise Provost were honored for, what was described as, a notable victory in February when their sewage notification bill was signed into law.
“It is no small thing to get a bill enacted into law in this state, and it’s especially rare to get a legislative win like this for the environment,” said Mass Rivers Executive Director Julia Blatt.
The new law requires timely public notification when sewage enters a Massachusetts waterway, such as through combined sewer overflows. In a statement, Mass Rivers said it worked closely with the three legislators to build a broad-based, bipartisan coalition of state officials, municipal leaders and environmental advocates who helped to push the legislation across the finish line.
Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, comprised of more than 70 member organizations, notes combined sewer overflows are a result of outdated wastewater systems and remain a threat to river ecosystems and public health. Climate change is increasing the frequency of severe storms, and recent studies suggesting that sewage in waterways may carry COVID-19 underscore the urgency of the problem, the statement read. State’s Secretary for Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides notes there are 229 combined sewer overflow systems in the state that have funneled a billion gallons of untreated sewage into Massachusetts waters since May 2021.
“Mass Rivers laid the groundwork that enabled this legislation to get across the finish line,” said Campbell. “It is ‘game on’ to address the effects that climate change is having on our drinking water supplies and our waterways. We are so fortunate here in the Commonwealth to have such a dedicated organization with such knowledge, energy, and commitment to help all of us in this fight.”
For their commitment to science in decision making, Mass Rivers also recognized Anne Monnelly Carroll, director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Office of Water Resources, and Viki Zoltay, the department’s hydrologist. Carroll was honored for more than a decade of leadership in state government. Her department provides data, analysis and policy proposals that have improved the state’s ability to protect streamflows in the face of climate change.