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(NOTE: We’ve provided some sample language and facts here to help you craft a letter to support these bills. Feel free to use as little or as much as you’d like)

To: Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources

Co-chairs Sen. Rebecca Rausch and Rep. Daniel Cahill

RE: Support for H.868 and S.489, An Act Relative to Further Testing After a CSO Event

Dear committee members:

I am writing to you to express my support for H.868 and S.489, two identical bills that are intended to mitigate the damaging impact of Combined Sewer Overflows on Massachusetts rivers such as the Merrimack, Connecticut, Taunton, Mystic, Charles and Nashua rivers, and Alewife Brook. These bills will accomplish two major goals that will help to vastly improve the health and vitality of our state’s rivers.

1 – Require the state DEP, or its designee, to test 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 to add much-needed data to help broaden the understanding of the health impacts of sewer discharges in Bay State rivers.

2 – If tests indicate a pattern of harmful bacteria levels at downriver locations, the bill requires that the DEP and sewer plants work together on a plan to reduce those levels. The sewer plants will receive priority funding to help them pay for the needed upgrades. 

Bacteria in our rivers from sewer plants is a substantial health risk to humans and animals. Many of our rivers are heavily used for recreation, such as swimming, kayaking, and fishing, Yet the vast majority of people who recreate in our rivers are not aware that the water can contain dangerously high levels of bacteria generated from discharged sewage. This can result in serious health problems, such as bacteria infections, ringworm, and acute intestinal issues that can require hospitalization.

Many of the state’s CSO discharges are located in environmental justice communities, such as Springfield, Lawrence and Lowell, where the impact can be acutely felt but funding is not readily available to mitigate the problem.

Some of the rivers where CSO events occur — notably the Merrimack — are also primary sources of public drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Bay State residents.

These bills will help Massachusetts take vital steps toward tackling the enormous quantity of sewage that is released into our rivers every year, and making our rivers cleaner and healthier for all.