Thursday, December 29, 2011

Worcester officials cite city parks to defend continued pollution of Blackstone River

I was trying to find a short, pithy way of describing the gist of an article that appeared in today’s Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette.
Here’s the story.
The Blackstone River has its source in Worcester and flows through Rhode Island into Narragansett Bay. Since colonial times, residents and businesses have regarded it as their personal sewage system. The passage of the Clean Water act made that illegal, but it didn’t put a stop to it.
Environmental agencies and organizations have worked hard to clean up the river, and a lot of progress has been made. One of the major problems that still exists is Worcester’s wastewater treatment system. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has found that the plant is still discharging nacceptable amounts of sewage of chemicals – especially nutrients – into the river, hampering cleanup efforts downstream.
In 2008, the EPA issued strict new guidelines and odered the city to make improvements t meet those guidelines. It’s an expensive venture – about $200 million – and an increase in sewage fees amounting to $225 per year per household. Worcester officials have been fighting it every step of the way.
The city is asking for a modification to the guidelines. Environmental groups oppose modifying them, saying the city has been dragging its feet for long enough. The state Department of Environmental Protection recently came down on the side of the city, asking the federal EPA to ease upand compromise. It’s no accident the Lt. Gov. is from Worcester.
So why should Worcester get a pass on adding pollutants to the river? According to the city manager, it’s because the city has a lot of parks and open space, representing a commitment to conservation and the environment.  The connection is a fuzzy one.
And to be sure, the city has a lot fewer trees than it used to, ever since it was discovered that it was playing host to an infestation of the Asian Long-Horned beetle. Thousands of trees were cut down, denuding most of the city.

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