Merrimack River Watershed Council to Use $352,000 Federal Grant for Cleanup Effort

Merrimack River Watershed Council Executive Director Matthew Thorne, Congresswoman Lori Trahan, Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau and UMass Lowell Assistant Director of Outdoor and Bicycle Program, Campus Recreation Kevin Soleil during presentation of ceremonial check. (Courtesy photograph.)

The Merrimack River Watershed Council plans to use $352,000 in federal money to bolster cleanup efforts along the waterway.

Congresswoman Lori Trahan said last week she “specifically requested” the aid when a recent government spending package was approved. The grant will be used for water quality monitoring, technical watershed modeling and green stormwater infrastructure design in Lowell, Methuen and Lawrence. During a presentation in Lowell with Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau, leaders of the Merrimack River Watershed Council and community leaders, Trahan said, obtaining money for clean water is important.

“We have an obligation to do everything in our power to stop pollution into the Merrimack River, which is woven into the fabric of every community in our region. Not only is it a valuable recreational and cultural asset, but it’s also a vital drinking water source that hundreds of thousands of us depend on,” said Trahan.

Specifically, the federal money supports one year of bacteria and nutrient hot spot investigations, four Environmental Protection Agency watershed-based plans and the designing of green infrastructure to clean bacteria and nutrient pollution in the Merrimack and Spicket Rivers.

Merrimack River Watershed Council Executive Director Matthew Thorne said, “To truly address the issues of water contamination in the Merrimack River, it is critical that financial investment be connected meaningfully to local progress and actors—and Congresswoman Trahan has always been shoulder to shoulder with us here on all Merrimack River issues.”

Thorne added, “the climate is rapidly shifting—which has a significant effect on water quality since all our systems were not built to handle the type of rainstorms we get these days—and we have to rebuild our country with green, climate-forward infrastructure to restore our natural resources sustainably.”

Official pointed out, unlike wastewater, which flows to a wastewater treatment plant, stormwater generally flows into waterways without any treatment and often with little attention. Bacteria, oil and gas leaks, heavy metals, nutrients, and emerging contaminants such as PFAS are pressing concerns that are entering drinking and recreational waters including the Merrimack River on a daily basis.

Trahan also testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in March requesting $100 million in federal funding to help address combined sewage overflows in Lowell, Lawrence, Methuen, Haverhill and Fitchburg. When she took office in 2019, the federal allocation for the EPA’s Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program sat at $0.

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