The Massachusetts’ Water Resource Authority’s decision to release 15 million gallons of untreated sewage into Boston Harbor’s Quincy Bay during last weekend’s storm felt to many like a giant step backward in the decades-long fight to clean up Boston Harbor. The good news is that there are actions that can be taken today that could have kept MWRA officials from having to make that decision in the future—implementing green stormwater infrastructure to reduce the burden on our sewer pipes, reduce flooding and make communities more resilient to climate change.
Many of our state’s aging sewer systems become overwhelmed with a mix of rainwater and sewage during large storms. That’s why MWRA officials were stuck between a rock and a hard place, forced to choose between quietly releasing 15 million gallons of untreated sewage into Quincy Bay or letting the water flood the station and release that sewage into basements, but sparing the Harbor. The problem runs deeper than this one incident—during last week’s storm, there were equally damaging releases of raw sewage into neighborhoods and into the Mystic and Charles Rivers as well. (See video footage here).
Massachusetts can stop these incidents by investing in green stormwater management techniques to enable communities to better prevent sewer overflows and save money over the long term. Some of these techniques include the use of permeable pavement, green roofs, rain barrels, even gravel—anything that will absorb stormwater and diminish runoff from hard surfaces. These actions can be taken by homeowners in and around their homes, at the city scale by greening streets, parking lots, and alleys, and at the state level, by greening state highways and universities. Massachusetts residents can urge their towns to adopt bylaws requiring green stormwater and green building techniques to be used in all new construction or infrastructure projects. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York are already rolling out these techniques and finding that they are both cost-effective and environmentally sustainable.
Fortunately, we have a chance RIGHT NOW to tell the state of Massachusetts how important it is to us to keep stormwater in check. The U.S. EPA is currently working on a stormwater permit that will govern the stormwater management of communities across Massachusetts for the next five years.
Help Massachusetts prepare for the next storm before it happens. Tell our government that we need a stronger stormwater permit to govern Massachusetts waterways and keep our communities pollution-free.