Six million gallons of sewage dumped on coast

Lynn, Swampscott, and Nahant beaches polluted after Tuesday's storm.

Lynn’s combined sewer system dumped 5.87 million gallons of raw or partially-treated sewage into Lynn Harbor and King’s Beach during Tuesday morning’s rainstorm.

The sewage overflow, caused by stormwater flooding the city’s combined water and sewer pipe system, pumped roughly 5.5 million gallons into Lynn Harbor near 254 Lynnway between 10 a.m. and 12:20 p.m. Near the Swampscott-Lynn town line, 242,376 gallons of sewage poured into King’s Beach between 10:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Tuesday’s combined sewage overflow event marks Lynn’s third in the last three weeks, after an overflow last week pumped 1.15 million gallons of sewage into King’s Beach.

In the aftermath of last week’s sewage dump, the Swampscott Select Board discussed CSO events and the safety precautions necessary to keep beachgoers safe with Health Director Jeff Vaughan, who said waters typically clean themselves within 48 hours of CSO events.

“This has been going on for at least 100 years. It’s not a new problem,” Vaughan said at last Wednesday’s meeting.

Vaughan added that while sewage outpours contribute to harmful bacteria polluting King’s Beach, another culprit must be taken into consideration.

“When I went today to do a test… there were approximately 80 birds along that beach where the outfall comes out all the way down to the actual water itself. I imagine they’re all dropping waste and doing whatever they can do to be happy birds, so we have to take that into account too,” Vaughan told the Select Board last Wednesday.

Select Board member Doug Thompson expressed concern with the Health Department’s 48-hour closure guidelines, and asked Vaughan for assurance that 48 hours after a sewage overflow is enough time to safely reopen a beach.

“We know the history of it. The message just has to be out there. We don’t have to test every day to know what’s going to happen after heavy rains,” Vaughan said.

Thompson’s apprehensions were echoed by Select Board member Katie Phelan, who expressed concern that neighboring beaches, such as Phillips Beach or Fisherman’s Beach, were not closed or tested following the sewage outflow.

The King’s Beach Steering Committee, which comprises state officials and local officials from Lynn and Swampscott, is currently working with state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rebecca Tepper to fund infrastructure that cleans the beach’s regular pollution from Lynn and Swampscott. However, there are currently no publicly known plans to replace or alter Lynn’s combined sewer system.

Andrea Amour, a Swampscott resident and member of the Save King’s Beach advocacy group, referenced the South Dorchester Bay Sewage Separation project, which constructed a new storm drainage system eliminating CSO pollution in Dorchester and South Boston in 2007, as an exemplar for Lynn.

“I hope that is a really big wake up call for our state government. Combined sewer overflows have been disconnected and the beaches have been cleaned up in these areas both within and outside of our state, and for some reason, this issue continues to be forgotten or pushed aside,” Amour said. “There are seagulls on every beach. King’s Beach is not unique in that circumstance.”

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