Heavy Downpours Bring Sewage Overflows into Merrimack River; Watershed Council Lobbies for Help

The Merrimack River from Haverhill to Newburyport. (Creative Commons.)

Monday morning’s heavy downpour overwhelmed municipal sewer systems up and down the Merrimack River, causing discharges of raw wastes into the waterway.

Ongoing combined sewage overflows, known as CSOs, is a problem targeted by the Merrimack River Watershed Council. Council Policy and Education Specialist John Macone, a guest this week on WHAV’s morning program, explains the cause.

“That happened in Haverhill. It happened in Lawrence and Lowell. Pretty much anytime we have a significant rain storm, what happens is that there is too much water going into the sewage system. It’s coming in from the drain pipes in the street and it overwhelms the sewer system and they have to release sewage into the river,” Macone said.

According to the group’s Facebook page, Haverhill is the only city along the Merrimack, that immediately releases its CSO figures, reporting 120,000 gallons of sewage was released, which is described as a relatively small amount. Macone says many people are upset about the situation, calling it a major health problem for the region.

“What we’re trying to do is help these communities find money to fix the problem. It requires a tremendous amount of money. We’ve identified about $250 billion dollars’ worth of work that needs to be done between Haverhill, Lawrence and Lowell, just to get to a point where they are reducing the amount by about 50%,” he noted.

Macone says they are working with the region’s legislators. At a legislative hearing last week, the Council received a positive response in its quest to have money allocated to the Haverhill-Lawrence-Lowell area. Council officials are hopeful relief will come soon.

In the meantime, the Merrimack River Watershed Council is holding its first annual Save Our River festival Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Elks Lodge in Newburyport, featuring a Cornhole Tournament, BBQ, live music and other events. Information is available at Merrimack.org.

Besides WHAV.net, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

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