Tag Archives: community

MCWRS Reflects on 2016 Successes and Kicks off 2017 with a Bang!

MCWRS wishes to thank all our members and partner organizations for their continued support in 2016. As we launch 2017, we’re taking a look back at last year’s accomplishments.

We fought EPA on the MA MS4 Permit. After EPA issued the Final Permit in April, MCWRS rallied  communities and jointly filed a Petition for Review of the Final Massachusetts Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer General Permit (MS4). The appeal was filed with the Town of Franklin in the First Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals in Boston. Briefing motions were filed in November and the Court is expected to set a briefing schedule soon. For more information, please visit our website.

We continued to advocate for MassDEP’s management of the NPDES program. In April, Governor Baker filed legislation for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to take over the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1. MCWRS President and Chairman, Phil Guerin, provided testimony at the hearing on this bill in May and we submitted a comment letter in June. MCWRS will continue to advocate for this transfer of authority and urge the Governor to refile the legislation this session.

We launched our new visual identity. At the start of 2016, we presented a new look which reflects who we are as an organization and our growing role as the voice for environmental, social, and fiscal responsibility. Our branding was first revealed at the MA Municipal Association (MMA) Trade Show and it helped our materials stand out at the 2016 Symposium.

We expanded our educational opportunities. The Coalition continued to host free workshops in conjunction with our Board meetings. In March, participants heard an update on biosolids disposal regulations and learned about phosphorus removal technologies and capabilities. The June workshop focused on drinking water and featured a presentation on MassDEP’s Assistance Program for Lead in School Drinking Water, as well as an overview of emerging contaminants. Stay tuned for more workshops in 2017!

We had our largest Annual Symposium to date. The Coalition’s 7th Annual Water Resources Strategies Symposium in May was a major success! The event attracted over 115 participants and featured many prominent speakers, including a keynote address from Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and presentations by representatives of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). At the Symposium, MCWRS presented the 2016 Joseph J. Superneau Leadership Award to Ronald Labelle, former Commissioner of the Department of Public Infrastructure for the City of New Bedford who retired in 2016.

We welcomed new members. We welcomed new members in 2016 who joined for the fiscal year 2017, including the City of Melrose, and the towns of Leominster, Pepperell, and Wilbraham. We’re only halfway through the fiscal year, so there’s still time for you to join!

Our Board welcomed a new director and a new VP. The MCWRS Board of Directors welcomed Tom Holder, now the Director of Public Works in Wayland. President and Chairman Phil Guerin, Treasurer Cheri Cousens, and Secretary Bob Ward were reelected to their positions. Vonnie Reis was elected as the Executive Vice President and Vice Chair.

We continued to track important water resources policies, regulations, and issues. From EPA’s nitrogen reduction strategy for the Long Island Sound to MassDEP’s guidelines for performing infiltration/inflow (I/I) analyses, MCWRS continues to alert our members of interesting events, educational opportunities, regulatory hearings, and updates that matter to them.

We’re gearing up for another great year. The Coalition looks forward to more events and continued progress in 2017. Mark your calendar for the 8th Annual Water Resources Strategies Symposium on May 17 at the Marriott Courtyard Boston Marlborough.

Worcester Water Main Break Highlights Importance of Hidden Infrastructure

The recent water main break in Worcester highlights the importance of our underground infrastructure. It is vitally important, but hidden from sight and often forgotten. Water mains bring clean water to your homes, businesses, schools, restaurants, and many other places you, your family and friends use daily. They provide for a basic need and are as important as highways, bridges and schools to our communities and economy. So why don’t they receive the same amount of attention as these other critical pieces of the fabric of our communities? And why isn’t the backlog of tens of billions of dollars in maintenance and upgrades of water systems being addressed with the same sense of urgency as is currently the case with highways, bridges and schools? Some people attribute this failure to lack of money and too many competing demands on scarce community resources. Maybe it’s an “out of sight, out of mind” issue or people just don’t think it’s important. That is, until an event like Worcester’s water main break impacts the daily routine of a major city’s population, as well as business and hospital operations. Even though the break was not caused by lack of maintenance, it did shine the light of day on these hidden pipes.

On the afternoon of Monday, November 12, a huge 30-inch water main broke at Chandler and May Streets in Worcester. It immediately flooded parts of the Worcester State University campus with some 10 million gallons of water and officials had to shut off the water supply to the entire city to bring the break under control. It took more than a half day before the water main was repaired but the city was still left with discolored water, low water pressure, and a precautionary boil water advisory for two days. This is unfortunate because we expect clean water when we turn on a faucet to fill a glass and we expect the toilet will flush. We should be able to rely on our communities’ infrastructure whenever we need it.

Water main breaks are inevitable and while they cannot be completely avoided there are measures that can be taken to reduce their likelihood and lessen their impact, while benefiting the environment, economy and society:

  • There needs to be significant, continuous investment in our water infrastructure. These capital expenditures need to be prioritized and based on an assessment of water system conditions, an understanding of current and future community water needs and identification of where systems are most vulnerable.
  •  Communities also need to take the lead in establishing fair and reasonable rates through which to pay for infrastructure improvement, while keeping water costs affordable. This may require grants from federal and state agencies. These agencies can also help by taking a break from issuing new, costly environmental regulations to further control communities.
  • What we really need are 20 to 30 years of uninterrupted focus on replacing, repairing and modernizing our critical water systems without the added burden of dealing with new, costly and ever-changing environmental rules.

A reliable water system is a key ingredient to spurring economic development, providing for public safety and protecting public health. Communities, municipal officials, and people like you must advocate for clean, reliable water systems. Speak up and contact your elected officials and urge them to help your community by providing more funding for critical infrastructure upgrades and by limiting the creation of more new, costly regulations that provide little benefit to people or the environment. In the end it’s your money being spent and you should demand it be spent wisely. Let’s all work together to get the most from our hard-earned dollar by investing in our public water systems.