Updated: Jan 7, 2021
Fantastic news! The sewage notification bill (H.4921) is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature! After moving out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee last night, the bill was passed by the Senate, and enacted by both chambers. After years of advocating for this bill, we are thrilled!
This bill, once signed into law, will establish a public notification system to alert Massachusetts residents when there is a sewage spill in their area. The purpose is to protect people from swimming, fishing, boating, or taking their pets into rivers when there is sewage present - a serious health risk. In communities that still have combined sewer overflow systems, rain mixes in with sewage in the same pipes during heavy rainfall. When the pipes reach capacity, they overflow the excess sewage-rain mix into nearby water bodies, posing health risks to residents who may unknowingly interact with these contaminated waters. And of course, it is our hope that increased awareness of this issue will lead to increased investment in updating this kind of infrastructure so sewage spills no longer occur in Massachusetts waters.
Please check back for further information (once the bill is signed by the Governor) about how you can sign up to be notified of dangerous sewage spills.
We would like to thank the bill’s tenacious sponsors, Representative Linda Dean Campbell and Senator Patricia Jehlen, for carrying the bill through a legislative session like no other, and especially for pushing the bill past the finish line last night. We also would like to acknowledge the work of recently-retired Representative Denise Provost, the bill’s House co-sponsor. (See the press release from their offices below.)
Thank you to these legislative leaders for prioritizing public health and safety:
Senate President Karen Spilka,
Former Speaker Bob DeLeo and current Speaker Ron Mariano,
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Aaron Michlewitz and Vice Chair Denise Garlick,
Senate Ways & Means Committee Chair Michael Rodrigues and Vice Chair Cindy Friedman,
Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Committee Chairs Anne Gobi and Smitty Pignatelli,
Thank you to our supporters and champions in the legislature: Senator Will Brownsberger, Senator Joanne Comerford, Senator Diana DiZoglio, Senator James Eldridge, Senator Feeny, Representative Mindy Domb, Representative James Kelcourse, and Representative Lenny Mirra.
Thank you to Gabby Queenan, our former Policy Director, who set up a winning strategy and coalition.
A huge thank you to our incredible watershed associations who advocated tirelessly over the years: in particular, the Mystic River Watershed Association, the Charles River Watershed Association, the Merrimack River Watershed Council, the Neponset River Watershed Association, and the Connecticut River Conservancy.
To our statewide partners: Sierra Club Massachusetts, the Nature Conservancy, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, and Environment Massachusetts.
And, of course, we are so grateful for you, our individual members, for calling and emailing your legislators, for staying on top of the issue, and for advocating for a cleaner future. For that, we give our sincere thanks.
The CSO case is not quite closed: there’s still one more step! Governor Baker has nine days to sign the bill, after which the bill will become law. Stay tuned for the final report!
Again, after the bill is signed into law, watch this website for information on the rollout of the public notification system, and how you can sign up to know when there’s been a spill in your community.