Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019Alewife Brook some time before summer flooding. / David Stoff photo

UPDATED Dec. 15: Save the Alewife Brook, based in Arlington, is pleased that the state has allocated $100,000 toward addressing the Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) problem that has affected local residents for decades, including a notable incident earlier this year. Meanwhile, the Arlington Select Board recently sent a comment letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) expressing its own concerns about the CSO issue.

"The Mystic River Watershed Association will receive the funds from the state, and they will be responsible for the hydraulic study that looks at dredging," said Kristin Anderson, Arlington resident, founder of Save the Alewife Brook and a Precinct 11 Town Meeting member. "We're quite thankful for the awesome work of the Mystic River Watershed Association," she told YourArlington via email Monday, Nov. 27.

According to Anderson's group, a CSO of more than 8 million gallons of raw untreated sewage went into Alewife Brook, a body of water near the Cambridge town line, on Aug. 8.  The overflowing brook then flooded onto the adjacent Alewife Greenway, and, the group says, some people unknowingly thus were put at possible risk as they walked and jogged on the path in the days following.

The relevant text in the enacted fiscal-year 2024 budget states "that not less than $100,000 shall be expended for the Mystic River Watershed Association, Inc. for a hydraulic study to model the potential effects of dredging and to identify specific actions needed to protect affected communities, including environmental justice communities, around the Alewife brook in the cities of Arlington, Cambridge and Somerville from flooding and other hazards." One may read this passage and more here>>

This money is part of the budget approved earlier this year by Gov. Maura Healey, also of Arlington. The hope is that use of the money will help address pollution, foul smells and health concerns.  

State Rep. Dave Rogers was instrumental in crafting the budget amendment, according to a Save the Alewife Brook news announcement from September. Reps. Sean Garballey (Arlington) and Christine Barber (Somerville) cosponsored the request in the House budget, while Sen. Pat Jehlen (Cambridge and Somerville) submitted it for the Senate budget.

 foottraffic in sewage 20230808 photocredit David StoffBike path near Alewife Brook  flooded after Aug. 8 rain. / David Stoff photo"Pressure from the EPA on the [Massachusetts Water Resources Authority] significantly contributed to the passage of this budget item. An Arlington problem which hopefully will be immediately addressed by this action includes MWRA notifications and postings in areas where overflow water is unsafe, similar to the postings which appeared very recently in Boston,"  Anderson wrote.

Save the Alewife Brook describes itself as an inclusive, growing, grassroots group that reaches out to residents in Arlington, Cambridge and Somerville. "We believe that by raising public awareness and by growing resident participation, public pressure can be used to create solutions to improve Alewife Brook water quality and to reduce area flooding and the impacts of climate change," Anderson wrote.

In related news, the Arlington-based Mystic River Watershed Association, or MyRWA, announced Nov. 28 the addition of four experts to its board of directors: Ryan Dings, Monica Ghosh Driggers, Helen Quach and Kelly Ryan. They bring expertise in climate technology, environmental law, public health and finance, says MyRWA Outreach and Media Manager Isaiah Johnson. He added that Charles Holley, Marcia Manong, John Reinhardt and Britney Satterlee have been re-elected to second terms on the board, which now has 17 members and is charged with organizational oversight, leadership in strategic planning and connecting to the wider community. MyRWA is led by professional staff and also organizes thousands of volunteers working together on a project-by-project basis, Johnson said.

Oct. 11 2022: Alewife Brook organization 'plays' its 'dead fish' at Honk! festival

This news announcement was published Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, based on information from the Save the Alewife Brook organization. It was updated Nov. 28, 2023, with information about board members of the Mystic River Watershed Association. It was updated Dec. 15, 2023, with a quote/link from the relevant portion of the state budget.

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