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State of the Waters Conference, 2020

January 31, 9am - 2pm
Northern Essex Community College Technology Center
100 Elliott Street, Haverhill.

Electronic Document Packet

Thank you to the 160+ participants who attended our annual State of the Waters conference -- our largest attendance yet! We've gathered together several documents that were discussed at the conference. Among them are some action items -- petitions that you can sign to help move forward legislation that will benefit the Merrimack. Check out the links below.

Action Item: Petition

We'd like to get more momentum behind a bill that would require all sewage treatment plants in Massachusetts to notify the public whenever they release sewage into a river. The bill is moving slowly in the House, and needs some public support. Click on the link below to access the petition.


Bipartisan support for CSO bill

U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan discussed a bipartisan effort to free up  re federal money for sewage plants across the nation that are trying to eliminate Combined Sewage Overflows. Click on the button below to view the letter that she referenced.

Read more

Merrimack River District Commission scope of work

Near the conclusion of our conference, state Sen. Diana DiZoglio and NECC President Lane Glenn discussed the recently-formed Merrimack River District Commission. The link below will take you to a document that explains the commission's scope of work.

Scope of Work

Merrimack River District Commission enabling legislation

Click on the link below to find out more about the state legislation that creates the district commission.

District Commission

Newburyport CSO pilot notification project

The Massachusetts Legislature has allocated $100,000 for a "flagging system" that will notify the public whenever Combined Sewage Overflow is discharged into the Merrimack River. The link below will take you to the enabling legislation.

Pilot program

Statewide CSO notification bill

State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell gave an update on an important piece of legislation that will require sewage treatment plants in Massachusetts to alert the public whenever they discharge untreated effluent into a river. Here's the text of the bill.

CSO Bill

Slideshow: Community Engagement

Heather McMann, executive director of Groundwork Lawrence, shares some success stories for getting the public involved in watershed projects.


Slideshow: Green Infrastructure

Trevor Smith of Landscapes Design explained his philosophy on green infrastructure, and gave us a few real world examples.


Slideshow: What's in the Merrimack?

Boston University professor Wendy Heiger-Bernays explored a next-gen problem facing the Merrimack -- and noted that thus far the river has not been closely studied.


Slideshow: Microplastics

Weile Yen, an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts Lowell, discussed the growth of microplastic contamination in the world's waterways.


Slideshow: Bacteria in the Merrimack

Greg Coyle, an engineer at the Lowell sewage treatment plant, presented data on bacteria levels in the Merrimack, and a pilot project that would use new technology to measure bacteria loads in real time.


Take our survey

What did you think of the State of the Waters conference? Please take our survey


Blue Ribbon Water

Did you try the filtered water that was provided by Newburyport-based Blue Ribbon Water? Here's a link to an information page.

Blue Ribbon

State of the Waters Agenda

8:30 to 9

Check in

Coffee and pastries will be available



Welcome remarks by Dan Graovac, president of Merrimack River Watershed Council Board of Directors
Federal legislative update, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan


First session: Next gen pollution

Speakers and subject matter:
Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays, Clinical Professor of Environmental Health Boston University, toxins in our rivers
Weile Yan, Associate Professer Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell, microplastics in water sources
Greg Coyle, Staff Engineer, City of Lowell, bacteria in the Merrimack
Mindi Messmer,  founder of New Hampshire Safe Water Alliance, PFAS contamination in New Hampshire


Second session: Water quality solutions

Speakers and subject matter:
Trevor Smith, Lead Designer at Land Escapes, green engineering alternatives
Heather McMann, Executive Director at Groundwork Lawrence, community and volunteer engagement
Diana DiZoglio, State Senator First Essex District, legislative initiatives

12:30 - 1:30

Lunch & networking tables

We will provide lunch and an opportunity to network with experts and colleagues. Also, most of our speakers, as well as two special guests, Geoffrey Daly and Gene Porter, will host "Expert" lunch tables where you can hear more about specific issues that may interest you. 

1:30 to 1:45

Final thoughts & wrap-up

Our speakers

Please click on the "Speakers" box below to learn about our lecturers


A Greener Conference

We've done away with as much paper and plastic as we can for this conference. Here's what we are doing:

Paper free:  All conference-related material will be presented on our website. We expect to publish more material - such as videos, slideshows and docs - after the conference is over. Please be sure to check back.
Lunch: We will present lunch a la carte, no boxed lunches. You'll be able to choose what you do (and don't) want to eat. We will offer a selection of fresh sandwiches, salad, chips and dessert. And thanks to our friends at Blue Ribbon Water for providing filtered water... in cups, no plastic bottles!