Mass. beaches get tough water quality grade

It’s a great line in a throwback Boston-themed tune, but no one is eager to make “love that dirty water” a Massachusetts-wide phrase.

A study released Tuesday says waters of more than 200 Massachusetts beaches carried potentially hazardous levels of bacteria in the past year. The report from the Frontier Group and the Environment Massachusetts says many of those locations had concentrations of fecal bacteria above federally recommended limits in 2018.

More than ten beaches tested positive for the bacteria on more than 10 days or more in the last year, including at the Nahant Bay waterfront in Swampscott, where there were 39 days of positive tests out of 92 samples. At Malibu Beach in Dorchester, where a presser was held, potentially unsafe pollution was present in the water on 11 out of 92 days on which testing was conducted last year.

The report was particularly damning for Norfolk County, where the average beach was potentially unsafe for swimming on more than a fifth of the days that sampling occurred.

Fecal bacteria in water can give people gastrointestinal ailments. Common sources of the pollution include stormwater runoff and sewage overflows. The EPA estimates 57 million people nationwide get sick from contact with polluted waters annually.

Environment Massachusetts director Ben Hellerstein called the results “troubling” and the result of outdated sewage infrastructure combined with stormwater runoff.

Communities are not required to notify residents of sewage spills in Massachusetts, which means in some cases, people are swimming unaware of potential contamination.  

Notification legislation filed by Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Reps. Linda Dean Campbell and Denise Provost could change that, making Massachusetts  the 15th in the country to enact such a mandated disclosure law. 

Gabby Queenan, policy director for Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, called the bill an important “first step,” but urged major investments in water infrastructure. But the price tag for a broader solution could be hefty.

“We’re not providing enough state funding to cities and towns to do the necessary reduction of everything from sewer overflows to reducing bacteria in our lakes and ponds,” Sen. Jamie Eldridge told State House News Service. Eldridge co-led a legislative commission that examined water infrastructure statewide.

The News Service noted that major commission recommendations, like increasing the price of delivering clean water and expanding the bottle bill, met dead ends on Beacon Hill.

While Boston Harbor and other area waterways have become much cleaner in recent years, pollution is still a problem. In some communities, sewage and stormwater flow into the same pipes. These combined sewer systems can become overwhelmed during heavy storms, discharging untreated sewage into nearby waterways.

In 2014, a special commission on the issue deemed that $1 billion per year would be needed to handle wastewater and improve aged infrastructure.

SARAH BETANCOURT


MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Globe editorial slams South Boston pols for opposing plans for the redevelopment of a massive former Boston Edison plant that include lots of desperately needed housing units. 

A homeless man whom police pepper-sprayed and arrested on the steps of City Hall in August 2017 is seeking $700,000 in damages from the city of Northampton and local officials after he was acquitted of several charges related to the case. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

A $6 million project will bring 24 units of “supportive” housing to low-income young adults in Lynn. (Lynn Item)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

US Rep. Jim McGovern joined a congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a four-day trip to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and the US immigration detention center in McAllen, Texas, to assess why immigrants make the journey to the border. (Worcester Telegram)

ELECTIONS

The Massachusetts Coalition of Police blasted Sen. Elizabeth Warren for saying Michael Brown was “murdered” five years ago by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, since local courts and the Obama Department of Justice concluded no crime occurred in the police shooting of Brown. (CommonWealth)

Peter Lucas says any hopes Boston Mayor Marty Walsh had of one day running for governor vanished with the federal conviction of two top City Hall aides, even if most people think the charges were ridiculous. (Lowell Sun)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Two Cumberland Farms locations in Hyannis have stopped selling flavored tobacco products after receiving a cease and desist letter from the town of Barnstable. (Cape Cod Times) 

Shari Redstone has engineered a deal bringing Viacom and CBS back together — 13 years after her father, Sumner Redstone, split them up. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

A Massachusetts state education department associate commissioner, Keith Westrich, has left his post after his name appeared on a list of 61 former Catholic priests “credibly” accused of child sexual abuse by the St. Louis archdiocese. (Boston Globe)

Alma Del Mar, which was recently part of a failed attempt by state education officials to create a neighborhood-based charter school in New Bedford, will rename its two campuses after Frederick Douglass, who lived in New Bedford after escaping slavery, and Sarah D. Ottiwell, a former New Bedford teacher. (Standard-Times) 

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The CEO and another top executive at South Shore Health were put on paid leave as the health system investigates unspecified “operational and administrative issues.” (Boston Globe)

Methamphetamine is making dangerous inroads into Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

A Pittsfield woman’s battle with cancer is helping others across the Berkshires with mobility problems. (Berkshire Eagle) 

ARTS/CULTURE

The Herald News unravels history by looking at how long-disputed Rhode Island land became Fall River’s South End during the Civil War. 

WGBH explores why town line signs in Massachusetts are shaped like books. 

TRANSPORTATION 

Ian Ollis of the Pioneer Institute says procurement reforms and expanded management capacity are needed at the MBTA if the agency is to meet its targets for capital spending and improvements to the system. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A federal agency says the environmental impact review of the Vineyard Wind project could extend into 2020. (State House News Service)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff published a formal notification Tuesday announcing plans to approve the direct transfer of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s operating license from Entergy Corp. to Holtec Decommissioning International “on or about Aug. 21.” (Cape Cod Times) 

CASINOS

Nothing to see here: Encore Boston Harbor says it plans to no changes to security policies after multiple brawls broke out at the Everett casino early Monday morning. (Boston Herald)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Supreme Judicial Court, which previously ordered that she be supended without pay, reversed itself and ordered that Newton district court judge Shelley Joseph have her pay restored while she faces federal charges alleging she aided an undocumented immigrant evade immigration officials. (Boston Globe)

The death of a former Quincy man fatally injured in a brawl outside a Squantum bar in January has been ruled a homicide by the state medical examiner. (Patriot Ledger) 

A home health aide gets two years of probation for charging over $5,000 to her elderly Billerica client’s credit card. (Lowell Sun) 

Someone called the bomb squad, but it really was just a pressure cooker on a Worcester sidewalk near Clark University. (MetroWest Daily News)

MEDIA

Veteran Worcester Telegram columnist Clive McFarlane posted on his Facebook page that he’s been unceremoniously dumped by the paper — “deprived even of the long-established protocol of allowing a columnist to bid farewell to his readers.”

Almost a century after the publishing of Walter Lippman’s famed “Liberty and the News,” media critic Dan Kennedy assesses how the newspaper columnist’s hopes for journalism have run amok. (Arts Fuse)