Under legislation recently signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker (R-Swampscott), a statewide sewage discharge notification system will be established to alert residents when such discharges make public rivers and beaches unsafe.
An Act promoting awareness of sewage pollution in public waters, sponsored by Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) and co-sponsored by Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) alongside House sponsors Representatives Denise Provost (D-Somerville) and Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen), was introduced in response to pollution issues that for decades have plagued the Commonwealth’s public waters, namely discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSOs).
A recent report released by the nonprofit Environment America found that “each year in the U.S., swimmers in oceans, lakes, rivers and ponds suffer from an estimated 57 million cases of recreational waterborne illness.” It also found that “an analysis of fecal indicator bacteria sampling data from beaches in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico reveals that 386 beaches – nearly one of every eight surveyed – were potentially unsafe on at least 25 percent of the days that sampling took place last year.”
“As many know, we’ve done a tremendous amount of work as a region to highlight this issue – to the point of kayaking the entire 117-mile-long length of the Merrimack River to help raise awareness,” said DiZoglio, following her remarks at the legislation’s bill signing ceremony. “This legislation is long overdue to keep the public informed about sewage overflows into our beloved Merrimack River and all waterways across the Commonwealth. It is just one step and we have much more work to do but we must celebrate this significant step in the right direction that was able to be accomplished through teamwork. Thank you to all residents and advocates who have been pushing for years for this. Your persistence and determination made this happen. Thanks to Governor Baker for signing this important bill into law.”