Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Animal-protection legislation could factor into domestic disputes

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

By Krista KanoMetroWest Daily News

October 6, 2011

BOSTON —Lawmakers are again considering legislation that would allow judges to extend restraining orders to protect the pets of domestic violence victims.

“Survivors of abuse may be reluctant to leave because of a pet and we believe giving the courts explicit authority to protect pets is going to go a long way as another tool to prevent domestic violence,” said Sen. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose.

Among the bill’s co-sponsors are Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, Sen. James Eldridge, D-Acton, and Rep. Alice Peisch, D-Wellesley.

The bill was debated in last year’s legislative session but never made it out of committee.

Kara Holmquist, advocacy director for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told State House News Service in April the law is unclear as to whether judges have the authority to include pets, which are considered property, in restraining orders.

“In the last three years Maine, Connecticut and Vermont have all passed laws that specifically and explicitly protect animals in restraining orders,” Clark said.

Clark told the Joint Judiciary Committee yesterday about recent cases of domestic abuse involving a pet, including a Roxbury man who allegedly threw a woman’s two cats out a window and a Plymouth man who was arrested after fatally shooting a woman’s dogs.

Two of Clark’s younger constituents, Rebecca Davis, 11, of Stoneham, and Emily Marget, 12, of Newton, presented a study by a battered women’s shelter where they volunteer that found 57 percent of women say their partners had abused or killed their pets. One in four women stay with the batterer because they don’t want to leave their pets behind.

The girls were backed by written testimony submitted by Maureen Gallagher, policy director of Jane Doe Inc., who wrote that 71 percent of pet owners entering domestic violence shelters reported that the abuser had threatened, injured or killed family pets. Gallagher also said 87 percent of pet abuse incidents are committed in the presence of a person being abused as a form of revenge or as a means to control the other person.

Gallagher also said 48 percent of battered women will not leave or will return to a violent relationship because they fear what might happen to an animal left behind.

Charlotte McGowan of Newton was the only person to speak against the bill, disputing Clark’s argument that concern for pets deters people from leaving abusive relationships.

“This is a feel-good bill,” she said. “I served as a legal advocate for battered women for years. I helped them fill out restraining orders in court. In all my training, I learned a lot about why women stay and animals weren’t the issue. The issues were economic and children. To me, this is a bill looking for a solution that has already been solved.”

Martha Grace, former Massachusetts Juvenile Court chief justice, was among those who spoke in favor of the bill.

“I’m not in favor of new laws for their own sake,” she said. “There is no cost to the commonwealth for this bill, and I urge your favorable passage.”

State park funding suffers silently

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Cutbacks taking toll on maintenance, staff

By Allison McKinnonThe Sun Chronicle

Officials from the Department of Conservation and Recreation say that no matter how little or how much the state’s environmental budget cuts will be, Massasoit State Park in East Taunton will have “severely limited to zero staffing” during the next fiscal year.

“We’re still operating on the budget cuts of the last two years, where we lost almost $30 million,” Commissioner Ed Lambert said. “Certainly this latest round of cuts is going to continue to have a negative impact on Massasoit and other parks, but this budget season will be nothing new.”

Budget cuts will also hit the already diminished Department of Environmental Protection, which lost 170 positions last year. The staff could face another 25 percent cut this year.

Often out of the public eye, state recreation and environmental activity, from the maintenance of state parks to the environmental monitoring and permitting, has suffered quietly through a succession of budget cuts over the past several years.

“It’s a bad recession and everyone is taking a hit, so it’s hard for the environment to come front and center,” said Jennifer Ryan, legislative director of Mass Audubon. “Clearly the other issues are important, too. I think the environment just doesn’t have the human face those issues do to gain as much support.”

The budget woes are likely to get worse. Lambert said the department already has about 25 percent less staffing than two years ago, and although the House of Representatives voted to restore about $700,000 to the department for state and urban parks, that leaves a funding gap of almost $600,000 in 2012.

“We’re hopeful that the final budget will have some additional funding to allow us to provide the basic level of services, he said. “At the end of the day, we’re more concerned about the public having access to our services and facilities.”

Lambert said cuts to the administrative line item were not restored, however, and have gotten so severe that the department cannot effectively oversee the almost 1,000 partnerships with private entities that often operate skating rinks and swimming pools.

“People often don’t think well of administration, but in an agency like ours, where we increasingly turn to leases, permits and contractors to provide services that we can’t because of cuts, we need managers,” he said. “When you’re cutting administration, you’re still impacting services.”

Ryan said the conservation department will have to scale back hours of access to parks and pools if they want to keep them open.

“When people think of Massachusetts as being a very ‘green’ state and very progressive, they don’t often realize that we’ve cut the Department of Environmental Protection by 40 percent in the last 10 years, and lost a lot of staff in other agencies” she said. “There’s a false security that we’re doing really well, when in fact we’ve scaled back dramatically.”

Ryan pointed to findings from Boston think tank Beacon Hill Institute, which found that while Massachusetts spends half the national average of per capita spending – about $63 per state resident – it operates the nation’s ninth largest state parks system.

“The real irony about our situation is that probably when people need us most because they don’t have the money to take their family to Disney World, we’re actually cutting staffing at facilities because we don’t have the funds,” Lambert said.

Cities and towns could also see the results of the budget cuts up close, Ryan said.

Limited staffing could mean limited access for local officials who need to get into state parks to remove hazardous waste or conduct water sampling and air monitoring.

The Department of Environmental Protection is facing similar staffing issues. Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell said that although some funding has been restored to the various environmental agencies, there is still a long fight ahead in the budget process.

“We’re making a strong case to the Senate to avoid layoffs, but in the worst case scenario we would have to decrease staffing again,” he said.

His department lost 170 employees in fiscal year 2011.

If the $43.6 million budget the House passed is the final number, Kimmell said about 25 percent of the staff in charge of issuing permits for wetlands development, air quality and sewer work would be cut.

Kimmell said decreased staffing would hurt economic growth because it would further slow the already time-consuming process new businesses face for various license, permits and certification they need to move into the state.

“Our responsibilities have increased rather than decreased over time,” he said. “For example, new federal mandates are about to kick in for cities and towns that require a more comprehensive job of managing storm water. (We) are going to need to step in and help them.”

The Senate Ways and Means Committee plans to release its version of the environmental budget in the next few weeks.

Barnstable, Falmouth win “green” awards

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerCape Cod Times

April 23, 2011

The towns of Barnstable and Falmouth received awards this week from state and federal officials for “green infrastructure” improvements at water treatment plants.

The Cape towns were among 21 communities in the state to earn accolades from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for projects that cut costs and reduced carbon emissions.

Barnstable and Falmouth received the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Pisces Award, and Falmouth was also awarded the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Sustainable Public Health Protection Award.

Barnstable’s winning projects were the installation of two wind turbines, 3,900 solar panels and a new system to conserve energy for pumps at the Hyannis Water Solutions Control Facility.

Senior project manager Dale Saad said the new setup at the water treatment plant uses an automated system of pumps and blowers to increase efficiency.

Falmouth was honored for instaling a wind turbine at the Blacksmith Shop Road Waste Water Treatment Facility along with solar panels at the Crooked Pond Water Filtration Facility using federal stimulus grant money.

“It has benefited the community by providing an alternative power source,” Gerald Potamis, Falmouth’s wastewater superintendent, said the renewable energy projects.
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State targets boating discharge

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerThe Salem News

April 25, 2011

Another 30-mile stretch of Cape Cod’s coastline could become a no-discharge area to stop boats from dumping waste into local waters, but some local officials wonder whether the region has the pumping stations to support it.

If approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the coast of the Outer Cape from Provincetown to Chatham would become off-limits to dumping either treated or untreated sewage into waters up to three miles from shore. The regulated area would cover 179 square miles.

Much of the Cape’s waters already have the designation, including Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod and Pleasant bays and Chatham Harbor.

Massachusetts has 60 percent of its coast designated as no-discharge areas, and the Outer Cape area would bring the percentage up to 67 percent.

“I think both the state of Massachusetts as well as the EPA and other New England states have a collective goal of designating their waters as no-discharge areas,” Bruce Carlisle, acting director of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, said.

Proponents of no-discharge areas say they keep water cleaner by protecting it from the high nutrient levels in sewage and the chemicals used to treat it.

This protects aquatic life and reduces the risk of human illness.

To qualify for no-discharge status, the areas must be considered important ecological and recreational areas and have enough pump-out facilities at marinas to support the local boating population.

There is some question about whether the Outer Cape has that capability.

“I think every harbor master and every shellfish officer would say, ‘Of course, we want no discharge,’ but we don’t have the resources,” Harwich Harbor Master Tom Leach said.

There are two pump-out stations on the Lower Cape: Nauset Marina East in Orleans and Round Cove in East Harwich, which has a pump-out boat that services Pleasant Bay. Although they can handle their current level of responsibility, Leach said the facilities are not equipped to handle more.

To help handle the load, an additional stationary facility is being built at Goose Hummock Marine in Orleans, with 75 percent of the cost reimbursed by the federal Clean Vessel Act Program.

There are 519 vessels in the Nauset harbor, but only 90 have a registered marine sanitation device on board. The others are mainly small skiffs used by residents, Ann Rodney, an EPA environmental specialist, said.

Rodney, who will review the application, said the area seems to have enough pump-out facilities to support a no-discharge area, since Nauset Harbor does not have much transient traffic.

“This is what I have to investigate. The state has certified this, and I will be talking to the harbor masters,” Rodney said.

Federal, state and local governments each can ticket violators up to $2,000 per infraction. The law allows the Coast Guard, the state Environmental Police, harbor masters and fish and game wardens to enforce no-discharge zones.

The rule is already strictly enforced in the harbor, but most violations are discovered only if the person is a repeat offender or someone reports another boater, Leach said.

“How do you enforce something like that? Everybody’s basically on the honor system,” Leach said.

Carlisle, however, said boaters usually self-regulate in no-discharge areas.

“Boaters recognize the value of clean water, and because we make it convenient for them to pump out it has become standard practice,” Carlisle said.

Only Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound and Mt. Hope Bay lack no-discharge status in the state and are getting ready to apply.

Link To Article

Rep. Keenan talks about nuclear power, Salem coal plant

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Garrett BrngerThe Salem News

April 18, 2011

SALEM — Salem Rep. John Keenan is the new chairman for the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, a job that has taken on greater significance with the nuclear disaster in Japan.

The Salem Democrat shared his thoughts this week on nuclear power in Massachusetts.

Your committee is probably getting a lot more work right now after the incident in Japan.

Absolutely. I have to say, I was named chairman of this committee a few weeks before this incident happened. I would imagine, much like the legislators in our committee here in Massachusetts, many of the legislators in the 31 states that have nuclear reactors have probably responded thoroughly, in that they wanted to hold hearings and make sure communities prepare in the event that we have some sort of disaster, natural or other, that causes a problem.

This was not an issue that I felt was going to be a first issue to have for my committee, but it just so happens that was the case.

How safe should state residents feel with three nuclear power plants within or just outside our borders?

I think that was part of our goal for having the hearing last week at the Statehouse — to bring in the two companies, Entergy, who owns both Pilgrim and Yankee Vermont, and then NextEra, which owns Seabrook. …

I was certainly comfortable with their responses and their talking about their preparedness for any sort of natural disaster or sabotage or those sorts of things, and talking about their backup systems. …

So I just hope we did reveal that Massachusetts and Massachusetts Emergency Management (MEMA) is prepared in the event something like that does happen, but we also asked some important questions about how the communities communicate with each other.

I think overall the citizens can feel safe. Nuclear power plays a very important role in the region. I think it accounts for almost 30 percent of the baseload here in the New England ISO (independent system operator) region.

What steps are the utilities taking to make sure there won’t be a repeat of the catastrophe in Japan?

I don’t think you can ever say anything is 100 percent fail-proof, but having two or three systems ready to go and kept in working fashion is critical to the folks who live in the emergency evacuation zone. …

As a result of the failed effort on behalf of the federal government to build the depository at Yucca Mountain, both companies have explained to us the process and capital planning they’re doing to build dry storage facilities on-site. … But we are encouraging, as did the governor, that the federal government either move forward with that project or another project.

They collected over $25 billion from ratepayers in nuclear power companies over the last several decades to build this thing, and they haven’t done it. So they need to do that, or send the money back to the various facilities so they can build appropriate dry storage on site.

The cost of electricity in Massachusetts is among the highest in the country. Why?

I think one of the reasons is we’re sort of at the end of the energy line, if you will. We don’t necessarily have natural resources here.

Most of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels, whether gas or coal that’s brought into the area. It is getting a little better; the cost of natural gas is starting to go down a little bit and level out over the last year or so. The discovery of shale gas in Pennsylvania, I think, is going to provide ample gas going forward.

Nuclear power plants are very expensive to build, but they are … a critical component. So I don’t know how we could think about replacing the 650 megawatts at Pilgrim and another 650 megawatts at Vermont Yankee. It’s a huge part of our energy here in New England.

What are you hearing about the future of the coal-burning plant, Salem Harbor Station?

I asked a sort of similar question because our power plant also has the capacity of about 750 megawatts, which is sort of equal to that of Pilgrim or Vermont Yankee, and has been critical to the reliability of this area for a long, long time.

There are no new plants that I’m aware of, of that magnitude, being planned or being built. The only thing that ISO has talked about is transmission into the region. But that is perhaps more costly than the improvements that need to be done at Salem Harbor, and quite some time before you actually get some study up in terms of transmission lines.

I am hopeful and confident that ISO will determine in May that the plant is still needed for reliability in the grid. In Massachusetts, coal follows nuclear as the biggest baseload. So it’s an important piece.

Again, I think we have to diversify. I think nuclear is a part of the solution. Clean coal is perhaps part of the solution. Renewable, I certainly support its development in Massachusetts. So we have to continue to look at all facets, and I think the Salem power plant does play a role.

What steps could the state take to mitigate the tax loss to the city if the plant closes?

Sen. Berry (Fred Berry, D-Peabody) and I took some steps a few years ago in the Green Communities Act, and put a sort of backstop in there in terms of taxes, which is still in effect through Dec. 31. In the event that the tax proceeds go down from the power plant to the city of Salem, the funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auction would fill out that gap.

Right now, we receive about $4.75 million in taxes from the plant. … Sen. Berry and I have also filed legislation this term to extend that protection. We’re hopeful we can move that along.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about the work you and the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee are doing right now?

We try to be prepared in the very unfortunate instance that something like this (Japan) were to happen. It made for a very interesting beginning of my tenure as chairman of this committee.

Link to Article

No breathing easy in Norfolk, Bristol

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Counties’ air quality getting poor grades again

By Allison McKinnonThe Sun Chronicle

BOSTON – The grades are in for air quality in Bristol and Norfolk counties, and neither are bringing home a good report card this year, although Bristol County is making progress.

The American Lung Association released its annual air quality report – “State of the Air 2011″ – at a Statehouse news conference Wednesday.

Bristol County received a grade of “D” in the ozone category, up from an “F” in 2010. Norfolk County’s grade remained an “F” for the second year in a row.

But then, no Massachusetts county received better than a “D” for ozone, and most were graded “F.”

Letter grades were based on the average number of days counties had unhealthy or hazardous air quality from April through September. According to the report, Bristol and Norfolk counties recorded a total of 29 high ozone days from 2007 to 2009.

Speakers on Wednesday, however, said Bristol County stood out as a good example of how Massachusetts is reducing particulate matter with its ‘A’ grade in the 24-hour particle pollution category. Bristol had no high particle pollution days from 2007 to 2009.

Norfolk’s particulate matter pollution numbers were not available because there is not an air quality monitoring station in the county.

“In the last 12 years, I can’t remember seeing A’s in that category,” said Jeffrey Seyler, president of the American Lung Association of New England.

Particulate matter is a combination of tiny specks of soot, dust and aerosols in the air. Short-term exposure can be linked to aggravated asthma attacks in children and inflammation of lung and tissue in young, healthy adults.

Year-round exposure has been linked to greater risk for cardiovascular disease and stunted lung function growth in children and teenagers.

“Particulate matter is one of the most dangerous air pollution forms out there, so to have an overall decrease in the state is a great thing,” Seyler said. “The air is becoming healthier to breathe, but we must protect the Clean Air Act if we want to continue this trend.”

Boston University School of Public Health professor Jonathan Levy discussed the importance of making state-based progress under the 1999 federal Clean Air Act, and looked at how it measures benefits and costs to public health.

“What it breaks down to is for every one dollar we spend on air pollution control, there is $30 in health benefits,” he said. “The U.S. economy is stronger and the population is healthier as a result of these investments in air pollution control.”

Levy said that although the report focused on breathing dangerous levels of ozone or particle pollution, the potential problems don’t just involve the lungs, but the heart and other systems.

“We must continue to implement standards for diesel trucks that travel through many of our counties and regulate the emissions from coal power plants,” he said.

Katie King, public policy director for the American Lung Association of New England, said the nine at-risk groups identified in the report represent people who are vulnerable to lung diseases and illnesses who could have severe complications from air pollution.

“The ‘under age 18′ group has a particularly higher risk because kids’ lungs are still growing and their respiratory defenses aren’t fully formed,” she said.

According to the report, of the nearly 272,594 children under 18 in Bristol and Norfolk counties, there are 23,379 recorded cases of pediatric asthma.

Other at-risk groups included 223,466 people with chronic bronchitis, 1.8 million with cardiovascular disease and 112,049 with emphysema.

King said those who fall below the poverty line were identified as at-risk because many low income communities are located closer to dense traffic and urban areas. About 100,326 people were identified as living in poverty in the two counties.

“People who are living in poverty may not have as much control over their communities about where power plants are sited,” she said. “Also, many already have untreated health issues, creating a double disparity.”

King said counties such as Suffolk and Middlesex have the largest poverty levels, but each showed improvement in both ozone and particle pollution this year, similar to the progress seen in Bristol County.

Following are ozone grades for other Massachusetts counties:

Barnstable, F; Berkshire, F; Dukes, F; Essex, F; Hampden, F; Middlesex, F; Plymouth, NA; Suffolk, D; Worcester, F.

Following are particulate grades for other Massachusetts counties:

Barnstable, NA; Berkshire, B; Dukes, NA; Essex, A; Hampden, B; Middlesex, A; Plymouth, B; Suffolk, C; Worcester, B.

South Shore officials testify on Beacon Hill, seek money for sea wall repairs

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

By Taylor Caroline BiglerThe Patriot Ledger

Link to article

BOSTON- South Shore town officials gave their enthusiastic support to a series of bills filed by a Marshfield lawmaker that would help communities repair old and crumbling sea walls.

State Rep. James Cantwell, D-Marshfield, has filed four bills proposing various routes for paying for the repairs, mostly through state grant and low-interest loan programs.

Residents and local officials from Marshfield and Scituate testified Tuesday on Beacon Hill at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture to urge it to take up one of the measures.

Marshfield Selectmen Chairwoman Patricia Reilly told the panel it costs $2,500 to repair one foot of sea wall. Last year, the town had 515 feet of collapsed sea wall, which resulted in more than $1.4 million in damage.

“There is no way the town can manage this amount on its own,” she said.

Reilly said the town’s 2.36 miles of decades-old sea wall are in jeopardy of damage or collapse.

Scituate Town Manager Patricia Vinchesi said the instability of Scituate’s 5 miles of sea wall threatens private and public property.

“If they are not maintained, they will fail,” Vinchesi said.

Bob Shaughnessy, chairman of the Marshfield Department of Public Works, said that although his department is responsible for infrastructure in the town, it needs help to repair the walls.

“We can’t do it alone,” he said. “We need a partner in the state.”

But not everyone was in favor of Cantwell’s proposals.

Katherine Roth, associate director of the Community Preservation Coalition, “strongly opposes” one of Cantwell’s proposals to allow 10 percent of a town’s Community Preservation Act money to go toward sea wall repairs and beach restoration.

The fund is intended for preservation of historical sites and open spaces.

“We support Rep. Cantwell’s position, but we don’t feel the CPA is the right mechanism,” Roth said after the hearing.

P.J. Foley, of the AFL-CIO, said Cantwell’s proposals would provide short-term jobs repairing Great Depression-era walls – a fitting nod to the state’s history.

“We aren’t the Plains State; we’re not the Prairie State; we are the Bay State, and we want to refocus on what made us great,” Foley said.

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MWRA: Clean water is their business, passion

Monday, February 28th, 2011

By Jaclyn ReissMetroWest Daily News

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Fred Laskey’s eyes grow wide, his hands dance around the air and the corners of his mouth stretch into an excited grin as he explains the effects of groundwater levels on the environment.

Not a particularly riveting subject for most people, but for Laskey, it is the thrill of another day as executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority.

Tall and lean, Laskey has been director since 2001. It’s hard to believe his enthusiasm has remained at a high pitch for nearly 10 years.

“I still feel like I’m the new guy,” he says.

In some ways he is. Established in 1984, the MWRA is charged with providing water and sewer services to greater Boston and updating the technology used to treat and deliver water. Now, the authority seeks to keep up with federal regulations and deliver high-quality drinking water through modernized technology while keeping operating costs down.

Laskey shows the same enthusiasm while taking a tour of the John J. Carroll Water Treatment Plant in Marlborough. The plant serves as the heart of the water supply system for Boston and the MetroWest area, treating 200 million gallons of water from the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs that supply 2.5 million people per day.

It’s not an inexpensive undertaking. The MWRA racks up $18 million in electric bills, or 8 percent of the authority’s $210 million annual operating budget. So energy conservation is key.

To cut electric costs, the MWRA established a solar panel field at the plant last December. That move is projected to save 6 percent of the $1.2 million in annual electricity costs the authority pays for the Carroll plant alone.

The plant, staffed by about 30 workers, also installed motion sensors in the indoor light fixtures to save additional energy and money.

“Before this, the lights inside were on 24/7,” said David Coppes, director of Western Operations. “Now with the motion sensors, we are projected to save $20,000 per year.”

In the field, the MWRA’s elevation-based engineering has kept costs comparatively low. The 65 miles the water travels begins at a high elevation point in the Quabbin Reservoir and gradually descends until the water arrives in Boston, allowing gravity to push 85 percent of the water. Without gravity, the MWRA would have to invest in more costly pumps, which run on either diesel fuel or electricity.

“This is considered one of the greatest engineering water systems in the country,” Laskey said. “The elevation of the reservoirs is one of the greater advantages we have.”

The system has another natural advantage. The two reservoirs are surrounded by approximately 85 percent of natural wetlands or forest, which reduces pollution and helps keep the water clean before any treatment has started, Laskey said. This makes expensive filtration plants unnecessary.

“We have spent millions of dollars over the last 10 to 20 years to buy and protect land in the Wachusett watershed,” Laskey said. “A fundamental investment is at the source to make sure the quality of the water is good.”

Constantly changing regulations are a hurdle for the MWRA. The federal government mandated the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment, or LT2, rule, in 2006. It is aimed at reducing gastrointestinal illnesses associated with the contaminants giardia and cryptosporidium by requiring water from uncovered reservoirs undergo further treatment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

To adhere to these new regulations and still keep expenses down, the Marlborough plant will install ultraviolet lights to reduce ozone use while treating the water.

“The treatment we selected to meet the new regulations will allow us to reduce the amount of ozone that we add, which would reduce our operating expenses to offset increased operating expenses for the new disinfection,” Coppes said. “So, we’ll end up with two means of primary disinfection, but operating costs won’t increase significantly.”

The Marlborough plant is key to the system, treating water for 48 of the 51 communities the authority services.

“This is the heart of our system, because all the water comes in through here before going out,” Laskey said.

The treatment process starts with creating ozone. Four ozone generators sit in an otherwise empty room the size of a soccer field. The round metal containers stand about 10 feet tall and emit a loud humming as 5,000 volts of electricity are applied to the oxygen inside.

By applying electricity, the oxygen changes into ozone, a highly reactive gas. This gas is funneled through pipes to a water tank under the generators, where the ozone bubbles through the water for 10 to 40 minutes (less contact time is needed in the summer, since the water is warmer).

Afterwards, ozone-treated water receives a secondary treatment, which includes the addition of chloramines to keep the water fresh, adding fluoride to promote healthy teeth, and adjusting the pH level to save copper pipes.

“We want to avoid leeching of the lead (solder at pipe joints) in drinking water, so we have to adjust the pH so that we’re not corroding the copper,” Laskey said.

Overall, the mood of plant employees is upbeat, and they are enthusiastic to share information about their work.

“One of the things that’s clear is that for the folks who work here, it’s not only a job, it’s a passion,” Laskey said. “The need to guarantee the quality of drinking water is very, very important.”

Read more: MWRA: Clean water is their business, passion – Framingham, MA – The MetroWest Daily News

State aid to help pay for cleanup of lake milfoil

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

By Jaclyn ReissMetroWest Daily News

Matching funds from the state and local conservation groups will go toward ridding Lake Cochituate of the invasive aquatic weed milfoil, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation said yesterday.

The $41,000 in grants for the project is part of $1 million in matching funds to improve 32 parks and facilities statewide.The Department of Conservation and Recreation awarded $16,000 to match the joint contribution of $8,000 from the Wayland Surface Water Quality Committee and the Framingham Conservation Committee. The state also allocated $25,000 to the Natick Conservation Commission.

Matthew Gardner, chairman of the Natick commission, said the money will allow Framingham, Natick and Wayland to work toward a common goal.

“It’s been known for a while that invasive weeds in the lakes have been a major issue and we’ve tried to find solutions to it,” Gardner said.

“What the DCR has done is given us the resources to explore some technologies and techniques for removing the weeds.” The groups said the funding will go toward ridding Lake Cochituate of milfoil, an invasive and rapidly growing aquatic weed. Both the Wayland and Framingham organizations will concentrate on removing the milfoil from the North Pond.

Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, said the rapidly growing aquatic weed would disrupt recreation – unless more steps are taken.

“So many people enjoy the lake and we want to keep that happening for many years and generations to come,” Spilka said. “If we don’t do anything about the milfoil, eventually the invasive weed will take over the lake and we’ll lose the recreational use, the beauty, and the enjoyment of it.” Carole Berkowitz, clerk of the Lake Cochituate Watershed Council, said that since Natick gets drinking water from the aquifer in the lake, the town supports decimating the weeds without toxic herbicides.

“This remains our focus, but we’re delighted now that we’re working together to find the solutions because it’s one lake for all three towns,” she said.

Mike Lowery, a member of the Wayland group, said numerous commissions and interest groups are dedicated to the lake’s health.
“Lake Cochituate doesn’t know what town it’s in,” he said. “We’re trying to keep all the programs coordinated and working together.”

Property owners urged to help treat water

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

By Jaclyn ReissMetroWest Daily News

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Businesses and homeowners can save money and help the environment by recycling the water they use instead of dumping it into sewers, say members of a special state panel.

“Not all the water used in a business has to be treated,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, chairman of the Water Infrastructure Finance Commission, after the meeting. “The water can stay in that business to water lawns or (for) use in creating or processing the company’s product.”

The 15-member commission established last year by Gov. Deval Patrick has been working on ways to deliver high-quality water in Massachusetts and improve sewer and water systems while saving communities money. The task is made more challenging by cuts in federal funding.

At a meeting on Tuesday, the commission discussed different options to deal with drinking water and sewage.

Tom Walsh, director-engineer and treasurer for the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District, who serves on the commission, stressed that water pollution control and conservation starts with property owners.

“One area that every individual homeowner and property owner can make a difference is in what they do to manage water on their property,” Walsh said.

He suggested using rainwater, personal irrigation systems and greener landscaping practices, using water that need not go through treatment plants.

“Do you really need to have a yard that looks like a putting green on a golf course?” Walsh said. “It would be better off to have native shrubbery and wild flowers.”

Money is a major problem.

Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, said federal funding for water infrastructure projects has decreased dramatically since the 1970s, when federal grants made up about 75 percent of funding.

A treatment plant upgrade in Westborough is costing $64 million. Upgrades to two plants in Marlborough will cost $100 million.

All three plants needs upgrades to reduce the level of phosphorous dumped into the Assabet River.

“It’s absolutely an important environmental need,” she said after the meeting.

Although Westborough received $7 million from federal stimulus grants to help fund the upgrade, Eldridge said the rest of the money will come from property taxes and the state’s revolving fund, which provides loans to towns and cities.

The commission is also looking to offset costs associated with treating polluted runoff from water that cannot be absorbed naturally by the ground.

“If you are a commercial developer…and you’re paving over certain space, all the water coming down on that pavement runs off into a grate, river or stream, and is not absorbed naturally,” Eldridge said. “One of the questions we asked is, should we figure out a way to charge a fee if you’re paving, that would help pay for the cleanup of that water?”

Eldridge said the commission also discussed technical details of towns borrowing money for upkeep of pipes. He said they also talked about decentralizing large sewage treatment plants and treating water directly on site.

Dykema said maintaining the state’s quality water will benefit more than the environment. Clean water could attract companies specializing in scientific research and products, creating jobs and boosting the Massachusetts economy.

“Those companies are water-dependent, and they require gold-standard, world-class, high-quality water,” she said. “We need to invest in these water systems and manage them, from an economic standpoint.”