website search
upcoming events

Dec 12
Friends of the Malden River meeting, 6:30-8PM Cambridge Health Alliance, 195 Canal Street, Malden

Jan 3
Committee Meeting, 7-9PM
Tufts University, Tisch College of Citizenship & Public Service, Lincoln Filene Hall, Rabb Room, 10 Upper Campus Road, Medford

SANITARY SEWER OVERFLOWS

WHAT IS A SANITARY SEWER OVERFLOW?

SSO on Maynard Street, Arlington, MA

Sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) are discharges of raw sewage into surrounding water sources and communities and can be caused by severe weather, improper maintenance, and vandalism. The EPA estimates that there are at least 40,000 SSOs each year across the US. Recurring SSO sites exist throughout the Mystic River Watershed, and usually occur during heavy rains because of storm water infiltrating and overloading the sewage system. Although these overflows are illegal, they continue to occur.

Have  you ever seen your street flooded with toilet paper and waste? The  following image shows a sanitary sewer overflow on Maynard Street in  Arlington, MA on February 26, 2010. Anecdotal reports suggest that this  same site has been overflowing for decades. If you have ever seen an  incident such as this, please contact us at MyRWA or your local authorities (see links below).

 

HEALTH ISSUES

Sanitary sewer overflows pose a serious health risk. SSOs contaminate the surrounding environment and threaten anyone who comes in contact with the runoff. They degrade the quality of water sources and can cause flooding into homes, basements, and low-lying areas. Raw sewage can carry bacteria, viruses, protozoa, intestinal worms, and fungi. Contact with these contaminants can lead to diseases ranging from mild gastroenteritis (the stomach flu) to severe water-borne illnesses such as cholera and dysentery. Community members may come in contact with contaminated water through direct contact in residential areas, water-related activities such as canoeing or swimming, or through drinking water. The EPA issued a Report to Congress (2004) which contains extensive information on the environmental and health implications of SSOs. For your safety avoid contact with river water after large storm events.

 

WHAT IS MyRWA DOING TO ADDRESS SSOs?

The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) works to gather information and raise public awareness regarding issues affecting water quality in the Mystic River Watershed. For years we have done extensive monitoring of dry weather events but are now putting attention towards SSOs, as we believe that wet weather events are contributing as much, if not more, contamination of our waters. MyRWA is committed to addressing SSOs through data collection and public education.

MyRWA currently has a dedicated contingent of SSO monitors that are ready to respond to SSO events as they occur. Monitors are provided a site near their work or home to visit under heavy rain events as well as materials to guide them through the reporting process. While our monitors provide outstanding reports, MyRWA is always looking to expand our monitoring network to support more communities within the watershed. MyRWA encourages any concerned residents to become a part of our team. If you’d like to know more about how to respond to SSOs, please visit our SSO blog or contact MyRWA. The blog includes photos, videos, and a summary of what occurred, who responded and what work is being done to resolve the problem. Through this project, MyRWA is on the path to improving communication between the public and local authorities in order to preserve and protect our communities and valuable natural resources.

MyRWA has created an online SSO reporting form available here. Data collected by citizens can be found on the link here. The information helps MyRWA keep citizens informed, and assists municipal officials in learning about overflow points in the system.


WHAT CAN YOU DO?

MyRWA encourages you to join our active team of SSO monitors. SSO monitors are assigned a convenient site to visit and provided with materials in the event that SSOs do occur. For more information, please call MyRWA at (781) 316-3438 or email contact@mysticriver.org with “SSO” in the address line.

To report an SSO occurrence, please contact both your local Department of Public Works and the Mystic River Watershed Association. The 24-hour emergency phone numbers for your local Department of Public Works are located here.

 

How many gallons per minute (gpm) would you estimate the SSO is flowing at?

Please take a look at the following pictures below to be used to estimate flow:

Courtesy of the San Diego Water Department


USEFUL LINKS & PRESS

Read our BLOG here!

A recent article in the New York Times regarding the severity of SSOs, as part of their “Toxic Waters” series by Charles Duhigg.

The EPA’s 2004 Report to Congress, detailing the extent of environmental and human impacts of SSOs and CSOs.

The EPA’s historic Clean Water Act of 1972 which “establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters”.

The Arlington Advocate featured a letter from MyRWA on SSOs in December, 2009 and mentioned MyRWA in an article regarding the heavy rains of March 14th, 2010.

 

Return to the top