When it rains, stormwater floods our state’s aging sewer systems. This mix of stormwater and wastewater can discharge into rivers and public waterways. These Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) often total millions of gallons of untreated sewage per event.
Unfortunately, citizens currently have no way to know when man-made pollutant discharges make their rivers unsafe for fishing, boating and swimming because there is no general public notification requirement for these sewage spills.
There are approximately 181 active CSO outfalls throughout the Commonwealth, which collectively discharged 2.8 billion gallons of raw sewage into rivers and streams in 2011.
Exposure to water contaminated by untreated sewage discharges can cause inflammation of the intestines; respiratory, eye and ear infections; skin rashes; hepatitis, and other diseases.
The EPA recommends that the public wait 72 hours before interacting with a waterbody that has had a sewage spill, but right now the public doesn’t even know these spills are happening so they can’t take the proper precautionary measures to protect their health.The Solution
Senate Bill 2617,An Act promoting awareness of sewage pollution in public waters, would institute a statewide sewage discharge notification system so that Massachusetts residents will know when CSO discharges make their rivers unsafe for recreation.
This bill would institute practices that have been adopted by more than a dozen other states:
All CSO operators must provide a public notification alert within four hours of a sewage spill.
All CSO operators must alert local boards of health and the Department of Public Health within two hours of a sewage spill.
The Department of Environmental Protection will be required to centralize sewage spill data on their website and provide an access point to sign up for subscriptions to public notifications for sewage spills.Below is a sample script for your phone call: “Hello, my name is ___________ and I am from _____________, Massachusetts. I am calling to respectfully ask that Representative____________ tell House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez that he/she supports Senate Bill 2617, An Act promoting awareness of sewage pollution in public waters, and that he/she would like to see the bill reported out before the end of the session. This bill would provide Massachusetts residents with public notices when sewage discharges pollute our rivers. I hope he/she will consider supporting this commonsense measure to protect public health. Thank you for your consideration.” Please call your state representative today. You can find their contact information by clicking here. Thank you for your advocacy!