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Your Tewksbury Today

19th Middlesex District Receives Big Environmental News

Apr 09, 2019 11:31AM

David Robertson

(Editor's note: The following information was submitted by the office of State Rep. David Robertson (D-19th Middlesex)

BOSTON - In the first committee hearing of the year, the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture committee got off to a fast start for matters relative to the greater Merrimack Valley's environmental health, in particular Tewksbury and Wilmington. Two such bills relative to the variable pollution levels of the Merrimack River, an ongoing issue for the town of Tewksbury, were at the forefront of the hearing. Each bill addresses an aspect of public health in a complimenting fashion.
The first, filed by Sen. DiZoglio, (S. 457) would create a commission to review the health of the Merrimack River and recommend ways to address problems, including the discharge of sewage during loss of power at septic treatment plants or more powerful rain storms. The commission would include state and local officials, as well as such river advocates as the Merrimack River Watershed Council, and charge the advocates for examining pollution, runoff containment, and more. The commission would be required to produce a report within one year of its establishment.
"If all goes well with this bill, I would love to see the commission not only look to address Massachusetts communities with recommendations and plans to improve the health of the Merrimack River but we would also look to communicate with our neighbors further up-stream, in New Hampshire who also have a large impact on the River's health. The Merrimack River is taking a beating with sewage discharge and other pollution, which means that towns like Tewksbury spend even more money clearing and cleaning the water to be safe to drink. A study would identify the priorities and offer solutions."
The second bill, (S. 458) also filed by Sen. DiZoglio, and co-sponsored by Rep. Robertson calls for the creation of a color-coded flagging system along the Merrimack River. The state will create the flag system based on the level of combined sewer overflow (CSO) pollution in the river. The flag that reflects the current warning level will be flown at well-used public access points, such as boat ramps. The state will also create a mobile notification system to which people can subscribe to find out what flag is being flown.
"It's important to keep in mind that this flagging system would only be an improvement to the current situation and not a solution to the overall problem of the Merrimack River being overburdened by its watershed community. This is an issue of significant concern for those of us who boat, paddle, fish and swim in the Merrimack, and for the more than 600,000 people who get their drinking water from the river," Representative Robertson added.
In addition to the aforementioned hearing, just this past Tuesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the Olin superfund site was placed on the Agency's Administrator's Emphasis List of fifteen sites to be targeted for "immediate, intense action," according to the EPA's definitions of this list. Upon hearing this news, Representative Robertson warned,
"While this is big news for the Olin Chemical Superfund site, I encourage the community to be cautiously optimistic. It is of course good for the site to be getting attention and prioritized for cleanup by the EPA, but the fact of the matter is that there is no absolute commitment of additional funding or action associated with a site's inclusion on this list. And, don't get me wrong, I so look forward to this decades-long issue being addressed, but I want it to be done completely and safely and will continue to be vigilant so until we all see the meaningful action that our community deserves."
Anyone interested in these or other matters are encouraged to contact the office of Representative David Robertson at David.Robertson@MAHouse.gov or at 617-722-2210x4.
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