Sounding the Alarm for Combined Sewer Overflows



By:Rep. Linda Dean Campbell

This summer, our Commonwealth experienced the rainiest July on record in at least a century. The climate report recently released by the United Nations predicts that average precipitation in our region will continue to increase as climate change worsens. In the Merrimack Valley, we know all too well what more intense rainfall means – more sewage spilling into our river through combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

The legislation I sponsored requiring timely public alerts when there is a CSO was signed into law at the beginning of this year, a major victory for the health of the Merrimack River and nearby residents who deserve to know when sewage makes the water unsafe. As public alerts systems continue to be implemented, work continues to secure funding to upgrade our sewer infrastructure to address the root of the problem.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $67 million grant program to help states with stormwater infrastructure projects to reduce CSOs. On the state level, the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust has also awarded funding to communities this year to address CSOs, including $150,000 for stormwater asset management in Methuen and financing for a sewer system improvement project in Haverhill. Still, significant federal funding will be necessary to complete the infrastructure upgrades we need.

My Merrimack Valley colleagues and I are continuing to work with our federal partners to secure additional federal funding. At the state level, my colleagues and I are continuing to advocate for funding for CSOs through the federal American Rescue Plan Act that allocated over $5 billion to our Commonwealth. The Massachusetts Legislature continues to hold public hearings to determine how best to allocate these funds.

It is encouraging that the issue of CSOs has been gaining attention on the local, state, and national levels.

With over 500 million gallons spilled into the Merrimack River every year, continued action on this issue is urgently needed. Historic investments in wastewater infrastructure are within reach, and my colleagues and I will continue to push for long-term solutions and the resources to make them happen.

State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature. She serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Advanced IT, the Internet and Cybersecurity and as Chair of the Special Joint Oversight Committee on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home COVID-19 Outbreak. She can be reached at or (617) 722-2380. ◊