Blackstone Activists: Officially Awesome

Why didn’t this get letter of the week?

What good news that the Upper Blackstone treatment plant’s current upgrades are not only meeting the 2001 permit limits, but much to their credit, they are also meeting the new nitrogen limit of 5 mg/l, and they are close to meeting the new (correct) phosphorus limit of 0.1 mg/l for the 2008 permit. This success is to be applauded and we were pleased to see it officially reported in an editorial (Telegram & Gazette, June 20). There now seems to be little reason to go to federal court.

The city and the Upper Blackstone staff insisted that it would be next to impossible for a treatment plant of this size and present technology to meet both the new nitrogen and phosphorus limits without additional huge overhauls and exorbitant costs. But the plant has met the 5 mg/l nitrogen limit without any additional overhaul; and, according to the plant manager, is saving money in the process. Meeting the phosphorus limit, which the plant is close to doing, will take some upgrading, but nothing approaching what now seems to be a quite obsolete and inflated $200 million estimate of consultant Camp Dresser McKee.

Since the Upper Blackstone plant is so close to meeting the new limits, why not take some deserved credit, accept the new permit and spend the avoided legal fees on closing the now much narrower gap to comply with the Clean Water Act?

We all will benefit from this prudent approach. So will the Blackstone River.



Blackstone Headwaters Coalition

7 thoughts on “Blackstone Activists: Officially Awesome

  1. t-traveler says:

    Could the agencies that have large sewer bills be contacted and the mitigation could begin before being discharged into the system?

    What’s letter of the week, this is the second time I read about it this AM

  2. RQ says:

    I know and respect Donna Williams but unless you are a design engineer directly involved in the upgrades then I think it’s presumptive the say how much the upgrades are going to cost.

    • Nicole says:

      Point taken.

      I guess part of my frustration lies with both the City Council and the Telegram editorial board, who said in their latest editorial, “The public deserves a full and open debate on these numbers, with scientific experts from both sides given the opportunity to defend their numbers.”

      Of course, the public does deserve a full and open debate. My concern is that, with the way things stand, that will not happen. Both sides have too much to lose. Neither the EPA nor the city can give any ground at this point, because they’re involved in lawsuits. Neither is going to concede any points to the other side, because it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars (for the city) or a less clean Blackstone (for the EPA).

      The time for public debate needed to happen earlier, and I don’t believe that we were given a chance to hear what our options were. We heard what DPW and their consultants said; the City Council accepted that, because they sure as heck wouldn’t want to pay $200m — who would?; and the T&G editorials have been on the order of “sue, baby, sue.”

      I wonder if it’s part of my nature as a Worcesterite to be skeptical of the official city line, and to be more trusting of someone who tells me what the city’s saying can’t be true.

      • RQ says:

        My concern is that I’ve seen first hand cases where increasing the efficiency from say 95% and 98% doubles the cost. Is it then worth the extra 3% at twice the cost? The mantra in environmental circles is the pollution prevention beats pollution control. I say direct the extra costs to pollution control. Also, not to diminish the desirability of cleaning up the Blackstone but there are myriad other environmental issues that could use additional funding such as lead, toxics, asbestos, urea formaldehyde, etc, etc.
        It’s also a balancing act because if we loose too many businesses and families due to higher taxes then how are we going to foot the bill

        • RQ says:

          SORRY I meant to say “towards pollution prevention”

          • RQ says:

            One other point, I don’t mind Donna Williams or others to fully and exclusively defend their cause. It’s kind of like someone in a court case being able to depend upon his or her defense attorney to fully and exclusively defend his or her position.

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