The Save the Alewife Brook group hosted a “Spooky” Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) tour of the Alewife Brook in East Arlington on the lovely morning of Saturday, October 16. Twenty Arlington residents, including some Town Meeting Members came out for the event.

 The goals of the group are summarized in a petition that was distributed:

During major flood events, the Alewife Brook washes onto the yards and into the homes of Arlington residents. Most of those flood events also include sewage contaminated discharges from the active Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) from Cambridge and Somerville.  Climate change, with its wetter rainy seasons, more intense storms, and sea level rise, is expected to increase the severity and frequency of these events.

Therefore, we want the cities of Somerville and Cambridge and the MWRA, to stop discharging sewage pollution into the Alewife Brook by closing the existing CSOs. We also want the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to invest in making necessary improvements to the Mystic River and Amelia Earhart Dam so that it is resilient to the effects of climate change.

Here is a link to the Petition to Stop Sewage Discharges & Flooding in the Alewife Brook – Save the Alewife Brook  and the Info Sheet that was also distributed.

Initial discussion topics included flood control improvements at the Amelia Earhart dam and regional Climate Change initiatives. There was talk of the long history of the CSOs events and the improvements that have been completed in the last two decades. But CSOs are still discharging sewage polluted waters.

Reproduced from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority website.

The group arrived in Cambridge. Hidden behind the round Alewife T parking garage, they discovered that the start of the Alewife Brook is marked by the ugly mouth of CAM401A –  the first of the Alewife Brook CSOs.

Cambridge’s Combined Sewer Overflow CAM401A, the most depressing place in the world

CAM401A most recently discharged 1.1 million gallons of untreated sewage-contaminated water into the Alewife Brook on September 28th, 2021, during a 1.6” rainstorm. Four weeks earlier, on September 1st, the CSO discharged 2.95 million gallons of untreated sewage-contaminated water.

While observing CAM401A, East Arlington resident David Stoff lamented, “This is the saddest place I’ve ever been.” And then he pointed out that the “floatables” control was not working well – a piece of toilet paper and a used condom hung from a dead tree branch in front of the outfall pipe.

The group then headed back along the Alewife Greenway, to find the other active CSOs. The walk ended at the worst offender: Somerville’s CSO, named SOM01A. It was noted that the “floatables” control was not working: toilet paper hung from a dead tree branch in front of the outfall. We also noted that on 9/2/21, 6.07 million gallons of untreated sewage-contaminated water was discharged on a single day, from this one CSO.

The Worst Offender: Somerville’s SOM01A Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO)

All of the walkers came away with a better understanding of the continuing pollution problems of Alewife Brook and motivated to work for improvements.

People who are interested in these problems can visit the group’s website and/or join the Google email list for periodic events and updates.

The Save the Alewife Brook “Spooky” Walk was organized by Town Meeting Member Kristin Anderson, Pct. 13 (who was flooded out by Alewife Brook), and David White of the Arlington Conservation Commission and Town Meeting Member from Pct. 21

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: