End MWRA’s Unfair Treatment of Alewife Brook!

It is said that the solution to pollution is dilution. The Alewife Brook is a tiny waterbody in comparison to the Boston Harbor, and the Charles & Mystic Rivers (which, by the way, MWRA also pollutes with nasty sewage!). Still at least most of the Harbor and River sewage discharge is treated. 100% of the sewage dumped in the Alewife Brook by MWRA, Cambridge, and Somerville is untreated. Compared to the rest of their system, MWRA unfairly allows too much untreated sewage pollution to be dumped into the little Alewife Brook.

Thirty-eight years after the legislature created the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) to end dumping of sewage and sludge into Boston Harbor, and twenty-five years after the Deer Island Treatment Plan started treating the region’s sewage to end Boston Harbor pollution: DUMPING OF UNTREATED SEWAGE CONTINUES!

The Alewife Brook Combined Sewer Outfalls dump untreated human and industrial wastes into our waterbodies in storms without any treatment whatsoever. Alewife Brook is a small channel in a densely populated area, with approximately 5000 people living in the Alewife 100-year flood plain.

The current permitted limit for sewage pollution in the Alewife Brook is 7.29 Million Gallons per year. In 2021, 51 Million Gallons of untreated sewage pollution were dumped in the Alewife Brook. The discharges also exceeded the limit in 2015, 2018 and 2019. The sewage pollution problem has been getting worse, not better.

Say No to Sewage Pollution!

Save the Alewife Brook is a growing grassroots environmental group with supporters in Cambridge, Arlington, Somerville, Belmont, and Medford. We are working to address flooding and water quality problems in the Alewife Brook.

We are especially concerned with the Combined Sewer Outfalls, which discharge sewage water into the Alewife Brook during many storm events. During major flood events, sewage contaminated water from the Alewife Brook flows into the homes, yards, and parks of the area’s most diverse and vulnerable neighborhoods, which are considered Environmental Justice Populations. To make matters worse, the Alewife can reverse direction during some flood events, sending that contaminated floodwater back to North Cambridge and Belmont, towards their most diverse and vulnerable neighborhoods.

A review of FEMA flood maps reveals there are an estimated 1200 East Arlington residents, 3500 Cantabrigians, and 300 Belmont residents living in the Little River – Alewife 100-year flood plain. Climate Change threatens to exacerbate the problem, with wetter rain seasons, more frequent and more severe storms, and sea level rise.

Climate Change makes the sewage discharge problem exponentially worse.

The hope for the communities around the Alewife is improvement of brook water quality and adaptation to the effects of climate change through regional resiliency strategies.

Illustration of Combined Sewer System with Combined Sewer Outfall (CSO) that discharges untreated sewage in the Alewife Brook.

Environmental Health is Community Health

The Weaponization of Alewife Brook Water Quality

he State of Massachusetts, through its agency the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, unfairly uses Alewife Brook poor water quality to justify not spending money to end sewage pollution.  How does this make any sense? Well, it doesn’t. So here’s an analogy which might help the reader to better understand the MWRA’s poor thinking on the…

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Cambridge Students March to Save the Alewife!

On May 17th, students from Cambridge’s Fayerweather Street School rallied to end the sewage pollution that is destroying our environment. They marched from their school to the Alewife Brook, where the 3rd & 4th Grade students leading the year-long watershed project had installed an educational public art exhibit. Students also wrote letters to state legislators…

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Earth Day 2023 Clean-up

On Saturday, April 22, 2023, Save the Alewife Brook volunteers met for an Earth Day Clean-up and environmental tour. We collected trash near three of the Alewife’s Combined Sewer Outfalls.  The event began with a reading of Governor Maura Healey’s message to the volunteers. We distributed t-shirts and Kolsvart Swedish Fish. We then began the…

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