Can Lowell learn from the Fitchburg Sewer Separation Plan? – Sentinel and Company
The enormous task of modernizing the sewage treatment plants along the Merrimack River has now been thoroughly examined and made public.
The main culprit, combined sewer overflows (CSOs), annually dump an average of 500 million gallons of raw sewage into the Merrimack River, an improvement from the 750 million gallons dumped just a few years ago .
“CSOs are a relic of the 19th and early 20th century sewage systems that were built in the industrial towns of the Merrimack Valley,” John Macone, policy and advocacy specialist John Macone previously told the newspaper. Merrimack River Watershed Council.
They include processing facilities in Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill, in the state, and upstream processing plants in Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire.
During thunderstorms, too much water enters the combined sewer lines. This excess water and sewage is dumped into the river to prevent damage to sewer plants and sewage back-ups in homes and businesses.
Manchester discharges 221 million gallons of combined water and sewage per year on average, and Lowell 194 million gallons. This contrasts with Nashua’s 21 million gallons, Lawrence’s 39 million gallons, and Haverhill’s 30 million gallons.
As heinous as it may sound, this dumping is allowed. Each treatment plant has signed agreements with the Environmental Protection Agency that allow the practice to continue until the problems are corrected.
Even with federal help, local resolution could be two decades away. This is because CSOs exist nationally.
So what should an impacted community do? Just put your hands up and hope that some federal generosity flows afloat?
Gradually, the city of Fitchburg demonstrated that it was possible to move towards this goal.
In 2012, this city reached a settlement between the federal court and the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department of Environmental Protection, which required it to realize various studies and infrastructure improvement projects.
According to Anthony Maressa, head of the Fitchburg sewage system for the wastewater division, those requirements included the removal of CSOs in the Nashua River.
Fitchburg still has about 9 miles of sewer and rainwater lines in its sewer system, concentrated in areas around downtown and in the Cleghorn neighborhood.
In May, the city submitted a wastewater management plan to the EPA and MassDEP that laid the groundwork for compliance with the federal regulation, in part by separating the remaining combined sewers in Fitchburg by 2030.
“The preliminary cost estimate is nearly $ 30 million to separate approximately 5 miles of combined sewers as well as other improvements to the region’s 13 miles of sewers,” said Jeff Murawski, deputy commissioner of the Wastewater Division.
The project will close four main combined sewer overflow points and prevent more than 10 million gallons of sewage from entering the river each year.
At more than twice the population of Fitchburg, we cannot necessarily compare the magnitude of Lowell’s curative water treatment challenge with that of its neighbor in north-central Mass.
However, it might be worth Lowell to research if he can apply any of Fitchburg’s steps to correct this problem for his own situation.
Better to wait for a combined flow of state and federal bailout money.