Who Should You Call?
Who monitors water quality of your favorite river? Who makes development decisions in your neighborhood? It can be tricky to determine who is responsible for a certain issue.
Navigating the different levels of government can be tricky, and the appropriate contact depends on what kind of issue you have - is it legislative, regulatory, or budgetary?
Is it a legislative issue?
The existing law is problematic, and changing the law would improve the situation.
If it is a state law, you should contact your state legislators.
(Who is my state legislator?)
If it is a federal law, you should contact your members of Congress.
(Who is my member of Congress?)
For example, right now when sewage overflows into our public waterways, there is no requirement for the public to be notified, putting public health at risk. Mass Rivers is advocating for a bill (H.4921) to require public notification when such an overflow occurs.
Here's a state list of relevant water laws >>
Is it a regulatory issue?
There is too much or not enough action permitted under existing regulations. Changing the level of what is permitted under the regulation would improve the situation.
You should contact a state or federal agency.
Water quality and quantity of freshwater systems are often managed by permits. When permits are being drafted or renewed, there will be periods for public commenting and engagement at which point you may voice your opinion on permit parameters and any environmental impacts it might have, or offer new suggestions on management strategies. You can submit comments as an individual, or as part of an organization.
Large surface water and groundwater withdrawals from water sources across the Commonwealth are regulated through Massachusetts Water Management Act permits. These permits were designed to balance human water needs and freshwater ecosystem health, and implement essential conservation measures.
If you have a question about one of these permits, or the Water Management Act permitting process, you should contact your local watershed association, or Mass Rivers Technical Specialist Sarah Bower.
To regulate pollution discharges in water bodies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits. In most states, this is done by state governments, but in Massachusetts, the state issues this permit jointly with the EPA.
Many municipalities in Massachusetts have Municipal Small Separate Sewer System (MS4) permits, which regulate pollution related to stormwater runoff. These permits are administered by the EPA.
Department of Agricultural Resources
Department of Conservation and Recreation
Department of Environmental Protection
Department of Fish and Game
Division of Ecological Restoration
Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Division of Marine Fisheries
EPA Region 1 (New England)
Is it a budgetary issue?
The laws and regulations may be sufficient, but perhaps the work isn't being carried out as thoroughly as it should be due to agency budgetary constraints. You should contact your state legislators.
Find them here >>
Every two years, the state legislature and the governor create the budget and decide how much money to give to each agency. Mass Rivers continues to advocate during the budget cycle for level and increased funding for environmental agencies, particularly the Department of Environmental Protection and the Division of Ecological Restoration - and you can help us! Budget advocacy is a great reason to reach out to your state legislator. Illustrate to them how providing a certain program or agency with more funding will impact your community.
Does it require legal action?
The laws and regulations may be sufficient, but perhaps the agency or permittee is slacking on their compliance with the rules. While a long and expensive process, litigation can be a useful tool in these cases to make actors comply with important environmental laws and regulations.
The Conservation Law Foundation operates around New England and provides excellent legal advice on environmental issues. Also, the Boston Bar Association can also help you find pro bono legal advice.