EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 10, 2014

City weighs efforts to cut river pollution

Work costs millions, will bring hikes in water rates

HAVERHILL — Two of the city’s most expensive and environmentally sensitive projects will take the political spotlight this week.

They affect taxpayers’ wallets and the condition of the Merrimack River.

Public Works officials will brief City Council tomorrow night on Haverhill’s progress in complying with federal orders to cap its old landfill and improve systems that clean storm water and sewage before they empty into the river.

The council will also hear a presentation on Haverhill’s efforts to cap the old city dump near the Groveland line.

Mayor James Fiorentini said the city has submitted a plan to the federal Environmental Protection Agency to make $5 million in improvements to its combined sewer overflow system. The system is a network of underground pipes collecting rainwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater.

Most of the time, the pipes carry the mixture to the city’s sewage treatment plant, where it is cleaned before being discharged into the river and other waterways. But during heavy rainfall or the melting of snow, the pipes are allowed to discharge some of the mixture directly into the river.

Part of the required improvements include installing filters in about 600 pipes to clean the mixture before it empties into the river, Fiorentini said.

The mayor noted it’s possible that regulators will require Haverhill to make improvements in excess of the $5 million the city is proposing.

A second part of that project involves annual maintenance of city roads to make sure they are cleaned to reduce sand, chemicals and other material that wash into the river and other waterways.

“We are going to be required to sweep every road in the city twice a year, which is something that’s never been done in the city’s history and that is going to be extremely expensive and time-consuming,” the mayor said.

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