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Sewage flowed into Boston Harbor this morning

CSO warning

CSO warning from BPHC.

The Boston Public Health Commission reports all the rain has overloaded local sewer mains, to the point that one MWRA Outflow pipe, upstream of the North Washington Street Bridge, started pouring sewage-laden water into the inner harbor at 1:01 a.m, "creating a potential public health risk."

The sewage flow from MWRA Outflow MWR203 stopped at 3:02 a.m., but the commission reports that in the unlikely event you feel like jumping into the inner harbor for a bracing swim for the next couple of days: Don't. Also, pull up those fishing lines and consider not trying to row from one side of the harbor to the other.

The public is advised to avoid contact with affected water bodies for at least 48 hours after a sewage discharge or overflow, during rainstorms, and for 48 hours after rainstorms end, due to increased health risks from bacteria or other pollutants associated with urban stormwater runoff and discharges of untreated or partially treated wastewater.

Although the MWRA and the Boston Water and Sewer Commission have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few decades reducing the amount of rainwater that gets into local sewers, overloading them and leading to raw-sewage discharges into the harbor and the rivers that feed it, intense bursts of rain can still lead to issues, whether through cracked pipes, gutter downspouts that still connect to sewers or illegal industrial connections. When this happens, sewage flows into "combined sewer overflow" pipes that pour into local waterways - designed to relieve pressure on the sewers and protect homes and businesses from sewage backups in such instances.

A combined sewer overflow occurs when a large storm overwhelms the combined sewerage system causing rainwater to mix with wastewater and discharge to a nearby water body. This prevents sewage backups into homes and businesses.

The MWRA says:

Most of the active CSOs in MWRA's service area receive treatment such as screening, disinfection and dechlorination.

MWRA map and status of its overflow pipes.
Map of overflow pipes owned by Boston and nearby communities.

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Just this morning, I got email from PaddleBoston saying that they will stay open for kayak rental in Cambridge (and Auburndale) this weekend.

Voting closed 463

The dam should protect them from the effects of this.

That said, I'd be leery of contact with water in the below Mass Ave, to say the least.

Voting closed 587

which is just off the Charles River. Some folks may choose to paddle through the dam locks.

Voting closed 838

Then the rental place should tell them to stay upstream of the locks.

Voting closed 986


Voting closed 793

This warning means the area is getting a desperately needed douse of rain.

Voting closed 636

It is way past the time that this should still be happening. The various organizations/ communities that own these need to stop waiting for grants and fix this now. It is unacceptable in such a wealthy state, where tax income was high enough that the state is giving billions back to high earners instead of fixing this and closing the funding gap for the mbta. Stop dithering Baker and fix this.

Voting closed 996

This is getting fixed. The MWRA has been doing tremendous amounts of work for at least a decade, separating sanitary and storm sewers. The number of CSOs per year has fallen dramatically, even as the number of intense rain events per year has risen.

The sewer systems are large, complex, and spread over a massive area. It takes a long time to fix.

Voting closed 1175

This causes Magoo to ‘member when Magoo used to go swimming off “How’s Your Neck” in Q-Town and Magoo would see turds floating by. Magoo.

Voting closed 1261

Lets stock up on Schlitz and head for the bridge at Malibu, for a retro beach day. It'll be cleaner than a wading pool anyway. Great weather this weekend.

Voting closed 790

Good luck with that. Schlitz is really hard to find in this area. If you know where to buy any, please let us know.

Voting closed 352

"intense bursts of rain can still lead to issues, whether through cracked pipes, gutter downspouts that still connect to sewers or illegal industrial connections."

What about the remaining combined sewers, which are fed by street drains? I thought they're not 100% removed yet. Also some areas have separate storm drains which have a limited capacity, and dump into a combined sewer in overflow conditions.

Voting closed 1412

There still are some old-fashioned combined sewers out there.

Voting closed 4

Serious question: How does sewage overflow affect boating? I can kind of see why you might not want to paddleboard but if your in a rowboat or sailboat what's the issue?

Voting closed 1316