LYNN — For one local group, its mission is the same as its name: Save King’s Beach.
The group began when Andrea Amour teamed up with community members, mostly from Lynn and Swampscott, in July 2021.
Amour said she had been going to King’s Beach to windsurf before she found out from Facebook about the pollution at the beach.
“We didn’t think to ask ourselves ‘Hey, is this beach polluted?’ in 2021,” Amour said. “I was immediately very upset.”
The beach, which consists of a mile of shoreline shared by Lynn and Swampscott, is the endpoint of a storm drain that often empties out sewage during heavy-rain events due to built-in overflows, which act as relief points by releasing excess flows into the nearest body of water.
The drain often leaves the beach’s water with unsafe levels of bacteria, as it did after storms in late July when roughly 250,000 gallons of combined sewer overflow discharged into the beach, according to data collected from the Department of Public Health.
Save King’s Beach wants to make that a thing of the past.
Amanda Burroughs, a member of Save King’s Beach from Lynn, has lived on the North Shore her whole life and said that even decades ago, she knew King’s Beach had issues with pollution.
“I’ve known this beach to always be kind of a problem since I was a little kid,” Burroughs said.
After researching the beach and finding issues going back a century, Amour, who lives in Swampscott, started Save King’s Beach when she had several community members from Lynn and Swampscott get together in person to pool their information about the beach.
The group later became active on Facebook, boasting more than 960 members.
“That got started as a way to allow people to uncover for themselves what is going on,” Amour said. “It’s really just kind of meant to be an opportunity for regular citizens to empower themselves with information that was unfortunately withheld, hidden, or unintentionally not put in front of them for a very long time.”
Amour said that one of the hardest things to overcome was how easy it has been to ignore the issue, especially for politicians in the past.
“Sewer pipes are hidden underground… You can ignore them, you don’t see them the way you see a bridge that’s failing or a road filled with potholes,” Amour said. “It’s not really a sexy project for folks to have in their legacy.”
Amour said the group started to gain political momentum recently, making appearances in front of the Swampscott Select Board. Additionally, group member Robin Grace was appointed to the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission by Mayor Jared Nicholson in 2022.
“There has been significant momentum behind our cause,” Amour said. “It’s really, really great that this is getting the kind of attention that it truly deserves.”
Amour said that she feels the current generation of political leaders has shown more support for tackling the beach’s problems.
“The folks who are in political power now seem to be a lot more sympathetic to this issue and I know there are a lot of people working on it very hard,” Amour said.
Evan Smith, who lives in Lynn, began working with Save King’s Beach earlier this year.
He said he wanted to start hearing local politicians, especially Lynn politicians running for City Council, advocate for cleaning up King’s Beach, and make it a priority when in office.
“Lynn is an environmental-justice community that is disproportionately affected by pollution,” Smith said. “It is outrageous that we are literally swimming in raw sewage in 2023.”
Amour said that after more than a century of neglect, she is hopeful King’s Beach can one day be a healthy and safe place for the community to enjoy.
“It was severely neglected for so long and it led to a lot of mistrust from a lot of people in the community… and also the belief that it can never change,” Amour said. “It can definitely change. We just haven’t ever put the energy into it that we needed to.”
Burroughs also believes King’s Beach can be a valuable asset for those in the city, especially as summer temperatures continue to rise.
“I just think it’s an environmental-justice problem,” Burroughs said. “Lynn is obviously a working-class community. There’s a lot of people that don’t drive and don’t have cars or working air conditioning that could be using this beach to cool off, and they can’t.”