Stopping Combined Sewer Overflows, Part II ~ Rep. Linda Dean Campbell

By: Rep. Linda Dean Campbell – Oct. 2021

At a recent public hearing about how to spend $4.8 billion in federal dollars coming to the Commonwealth, the need to address combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in the Merrimack River came up again and again. It’s been a rainy summer, causing millions of gallons of sewage to overflow into our river.

During Tropical Storm Ida, a whopping 130 million gallons of untreated sewage overflowed into the Merrimack – roughly 25% of the region’s average annual discharge in just 2 days. This issue will not disappear on its own, and these federal funds give us the opportunity to upgrade our wastewater infrastructure to fix the problem.

I was glad to join Representative Christina Minicucci and Matthew Thorne and John Macone from the Merrimack River Watershed Council to testify in support of significant funding to address CSOs. We advocated for more than the Governor’s proposal of $400 million, as more will be necessary to make serious headway on this issue.

Our wastewater treatment facilities have done studies for years and know what infrastructure upgrades are needed to stop CSOs. They have already poured millions of dollars into solutions, but hundreds of millions of dollars are still needed. The plans are in place, but our communities cannot foot the bill alone. Federal support is a must, and we need more than what the Governor has proposed.

I am grateful that Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Katie Theoharides testified from a CSO outfall in Lawrence to further highlight the many negative impacts of CSOs on the Merrimack Valley. Never before has there been such public attention on this issue and such strong public consensus that we need to act now!

I was also honored to be recognized by the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance for lead sponsorship and passage of the state law requiring public notification of CSOs.

The new law, which I sponsored with Senator Pat Jehlen and former Representative Denise Provost, is essential for protecting public health and preserving our drinking water supply, and it’s a critical step toward eliminating CSOs. Getting this bill across the finish line took a massive team effort and a broad bipartisan coalition, and
I am so thankful to Mass Rivers for their partnership every step of the way – and to the many environmental organizations, state officials, and municipal leaders who supported our effort.

Our work continues! We will continue to push for federal funding to keep our Merrimack River clean, safe, and healthy.

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. ◊