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Many people contact us and ask what they can do to help make the Merrimack River cleaner. Here’s something that is pretty easy to do, and can make a notable impact! 

Next week the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources will be holding a public hearing on 2 bills filed by Merrimack Valley legislators. The bills (H.868 and S.489), entitled An Act Relative to Further Testing After a CSO Event, would do 2 important things: 

1 – Require the state to test the river for bacteria downstream of Combined Sewer Overflow outfall pipes after CSO events occur, and then report this data to the public. Currently, there is no such testing and reporting happening. This testing will help us to understand the health impact of sewer discharges in the Merrimack River (as well as other rivers in Massachusetts where sewage is discharged).  

2 – If these tests show a pattern of harmful bacteria levels, the state and sewer plants must work on a plan to reduce those levels. The plants will receive priority funding to help them pay for the needed upgrades. 

How can you help? 

There are 2 things you can do – either submit comments in writing or attend the hearing in person or via Zoom and make your comments orally. And, if you feel inspired, you can do both. 

Written comments: Your comments should be sent via email to the committee, and here’s a link to the email address. There is no deadline, however it’s always best to submit it by the date of the hearing (October 25). 

The hearing will take place October 25 starting at 1 p.m. at the Massachusetts Statehouse.  

MRWC has prepared a sample letter for you to use as a template to work off, click on this link to access it. It’s always best to write your own letter, with your own thoughts and observations. 

Oral comments: You can either attend the hearing in person, or remotely via Zoom. You have a maximum of 3 minutes to state your opinion, and you need to be ready to speak when the bill comes up for discussion. The hearings usually last about 3 or so hours, and there are several other bills on the docket so it’s not easy to say when these bills will be up for discussion. 

If you decide to make verbal comments, you need to pre-register by noon on Monday, October 23. Here’s a link to pre-register. 

The 2 bills have the same language – one was filed in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives. This is a common practice in the state Legislature and reflects the fact that the bill has support in both houses. When you make your comments, make note that you are supporting both bills. 

These 2 bills are just starting their path through the state Legislature, and they have a long way to go. This first step is important, because it’s essential that the committee report the bills out with a favorable recommendation. Your voice can help make that happen!