Sewage overflows in Northampton, Holyoke and Greenfield

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 07-17-2023 5:12 PM

NORTHAMPTON — At least three municipal sewer systems overflowed due to heavy rain Sunday, sending millions of gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage into nearby waterways and the Connecticut River.

Public works officials in Northampton reported a discharge of less than 500 gallons of untreated waste to Barrett Street Brook. Workers resolved the problem with bypass pumping but urged the public to avoid the Barrett Street Brook and downstream areas of the Connecticut River at the Connecticut River Greenway for 48 hours.

The city of Holyoke reported combined discharges of 6,579,116 gallons directly into the Connecticut River. It said the discharge had ceased by 11 a.m. Sunday, and urged the public to avoid contact with the river for 48 hours.

And in Greenfield, about 90,000 gallons of untreated sewage and waste overflowed along the Green River. Public works officials discovered the sewer overflow Sunday at 11:30 a.m. discharging from a regulator chamber outfall behind 302 Deerfield St. at a rate 529 gallons per minute, State House News Service reported.

A spokesman for Mayor Roxann Wedegartner told the News Service late Sunday afternoon that the discharge stopped at 3:45 p.m.

The Green River and Deerfield River in Greenfield were affected, as well as the Connecticut River in Deerfield, Montague and Sunderland. The mayor’s office advised that people avoid contact with the water bodies for 48 hours due to increased health risks from bacteria and pollutants.

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In an email, Northampton Public Works Director Donna LaScaleia said the city experienced minor flooding on some roads, specifically Milton Street in the area of Northampton High School. Personnel were on standby in case the flood control structure needed to be activated again on West Street, but she said the Mill River crested below the threshold for that action.

Florence received 4 inches of rain Sunday, LaScaleia said. That combined with the high level of the Connecticut River has required the city at times to run the Hockanum Road flood control station at maximum output.

The station has the capability to pump more than 150,000 gallons of water per minute out of the city, LaScaleia said in the email.

“We will continue to staff that operation 24 hours a day until the level of the Connecticut River falls to below actionable stage,” she said.

In other environmental news, the National Weather Service issued an air quality alert Monday for a large swath of the northeastern U.S. because of wildfire smoke. By 4:30, according to AirNow site, Hampshire County was in the red zone, at which the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups and others are advised to reduce outdoor activity or stay indoors.

There’s one silver lining to the relentless rain clouds: Massachusetts is no longer in a drought.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper on Monday declared a return to normal for all seven regions of the state.

“After a week of devastating floods in western Massachusetts, it should not come as a surprise that the drought has lifted,” Tepper said in a statement.

State officials expect precipitation to remain above average, along with slightly above-average temperatures, for the rest of July.

A mild drought had been declared for the western region and Cape Cod in early June, after Massachusetts finally emerged from its 2022 drought in February 2023.

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