Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019

The Select Board aims to help remedy Alewife Brook’s sewer overflows by sending a letter to  Arlington’s Conservation Commission regarding the Alewife Brook/Upper Mystic Combined Sewer Overflow Long-Term Control Plan.

The board voted 4-0 (Diane Mahon absent) at its July 18 meeting to send this letter, subject to any comments from Mahon. 

To see the draft letter, click here >> 

Town Counsel Doug Heim explained that the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), Cambridge and Somerville all discharge combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into Alewife Brook. All are in the beginning stages of the variance process administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s water-quality regulations and the EPA. The goal is to develop a scope of work that will be the long-term control plan, and more formal hearings will be held later.

'Long-term frustrations'

This letter reinforces what a lot of local Arlington advocacy organizations such as Save the Alewife Brook and some town officials have been saying at these initial meetings. 

“Advocates have long-term frustrations about the conditions of Alewife Brook,” Heim said. “The MRWA, Cambridge and Somerville have invested a huge amount of money in trying to clean up the Boston-area watersheds, such as Boston Harbor.

“However, a lot of the feedback from Arlington has been that the Alewife Brook has not been remedied sufficiently, and [some local residents] would like a more aggressive development of alternatives to mitigating and controlling those CSOs,” added Heim.

The letter reemphasizes the positive steps being taken, Heim said, and supports these EPA responses:

(a) Continued commitment to public meetings at early stages, which the MWRA, Cambridge and Somerville have all done;

(b) Commitment to revised modeling, which shows that although there may be fewer CSO events, they have much higher volumes because of the intensity and frequency of severe storms; and

(c) Arlington is committing resources through its Department of Public Works and Conservation Commission’s planning efforts to reduce other pollution sources at Alewife Brook.

No seat at table

Heim added that “Arlington doesn’t have a seat at the table, because the town isn’t subject to the regulatory authority, and we’re not paying for this.

“But Arlington is doing what it can to devote significant financial resources to improve the water quality at Alewife Brook.”

He said that the process is still early – it is not yet at the hearing phase --”but this may be the best time to request the financial resources to address Alewife Brook’s problems.”

Board member John Hurd said, “The letter encapsulates a number of discussions that we’ve had on this issue. It’s a good step in the right direction.” 

See the ACMi video of the July 18 meeting:

July 1, 2022: Save the Alewife Brook seeks funds to improve waterway


This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Sunday, July 24, 2022.

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