Down The Pipe

Down The Pipe

There is a pretty consistent threat to the Merrimack River lately. When we get heavy rains or snow, the sewer treatment plants at some of the larger upriver cities can’t take the volume. In order to save their systems, the excess rain, sewer, industrial, and household waste bypasses the treatment plants, and exits directly into the river. These events are called “Combined Sewer Overflows,” or “CSOs” for short.

So you can imagine the variety of stuff that is put in the river, eventually floating down our way, making the lower Merrimack, Joppa Flats, and the water surrounding Plum Island less than pristine. That frothy light brown foam you see on the surface? Very bad stuff. Kind of a mixture of poop, urine, oil, chemicals, and lots of other disgusting and dangerous contents.

This isn’t a new phenomena, and has been been written about for years in the regional newspapers. Just last week there was a reasonably good article in the Newburyport Daily News. The Boston Herald has reported on the issue. as well. It’s not just the Merrimack, many Bay State rivers are facing the same challenges.

Newburyport Daily News: Heavy Rains Cause CSOs

Boston Herald Editorial: Federal grants not solution to river pollution

You want to find out more about the problem? There is a great organization called the Merrimack River Watershed Council. They help keep track of the problems, including sharing reports about which cities overflowed on which days. They are also a strong advocacy group fighting to find solutions to CSOs. They’ve got a load of information, statistics, lectures, illustrations, and more, to help you understand the various dangers to the river.

Their web site is great, and they also have a VERY active Facebook Page. Best of all, both sites give alerts about when and how much bad water is coming down the river.

Resources discussing Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) in theĀ Merrimack River


Stickman is the resident web design guy at Surfland. We pay him in eels.

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