Press Releases

Congresswoman Lori Trahan Unveils New Legislation to Support Clean Up of the Merrimack River

The ‘Stop Sewage Overflow Act’ dramatically expands the EPA’s Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program

Lowell, MA – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) unveiled new legislation to support the cleanup of the Merrimack River. The Stop Sewage Overflow Act dramatically expands and improves the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program (Section 221), which is used to award federal grants to states and municipalities for the planning, design, and construction for combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows, or stormwater management.

Combined sewer overflows are a product of combined sewer systems, which are in use by more than 800 communities across the nation. These systems are particularly common in the Northeast and Midwest, where they trigger harmful releases of raw sewage when precipitation exceeds manageable levels. This is especially the case for the Merrimack River, where last year alone 800 million gallons of sewage and untreated stormwater were released into the river as a result of these outdated systems. 

“The Merrimack River is a vital resource for residents of Massachusetts’ 3rd Congressional District, supplying drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people across the region. That is why the current state of contamination is so concerning,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “The federal government has an obligation to help municipalities like Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, and Manchester make urgently needed upgrades to their sewer infrastructure to help prevent this sort of pollution from jeopardizing the health and economic wellbeing of residents who depend on the river. I am proud to introduce the Stop Sewage Overflow Act to give municipalities the help they’ve been asking for.” 

Specifically, the Stop Sewage Overflow Act increases the authorization of the Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program to $500 million annually, extends the authorization of the program through 2029, prioritizes communities that have endured the most sewage overflows, and raises the federal cost-share based upon a community’s ability to fund improvements absent grants. The legislation will be introduced this week as the House of Representatives reconvenes from its Easter district work period. 

Congresswoman Trahan first unveiled this legislation earlier today during a Merrimack River stakeholders’ meeting she convened at the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility (LRWWU). This meeting was attended by local business, advocacy, and elected leaders from Merrimack River watershed communities. A representative from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was also in attendance. The attendees of this event also joined together to send an invitation to the Acting Regional EPA Administrator, Deborah Szaro. The invitation encourages her to tour the watershed region and hear from local stakeholders about the importance of federal support for Merrimack River clean-up efforts. A copy of that signed letter can be found HERE

Last week, Congresswoman Trahan, along with Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA), Annie Kuster (D-NH), and Chris Pappas (D-NH) sent a letter to the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee of Appropriations requesting $500 million be allocated for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program (section 221) for fiscal year 2020. 

Congresswoman Trahan continues to be a champion for river cleanup and preservation across the Commonwealth. Earlier this year as a part of a broader public lands package, President Trump signed into law legislation sponsored by Rep. Trahan and Sen. Markey to designate the Nashua River and its tributaries as scenic rivers under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This designation will help preserve the rivers for generations to come.