State Rep. Wants Reservoir Clean-Up

A Cambridge state representative has sponsored legislation to reduce the contamination of local reservoir water, aides said yesterday.

The bill proposed by State Rep. Charles F. Flaherty Jr. (D-Cambridge) would require the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (DPW) to redirect a drainage pipe running from three major roadways into the Cambridge Reservoir.

The drainage water pollutes the water with salt and other possibly harmful substances, said one of Flaherty's research assistants.

Flaherty is sponsoring legislation to clean up the water because he thinks it is an important health issue for the community, said his assistant. The Cambridge Reservoir provides 17 million gallons of water per day to residents of the city.

But the DPW opposes the bill. Officials there said that redirecting the drainage pipe is just one answer to the problem, and not necessarily the best.


At present, a drainage pipe transfers materials from three state highway routes, 128, 2, and 2A, directly into the Hobbs Brook (Cambridge) Reservior, said Flaherty's assistant.

There is community concern about this drainage, she said, because many unhealthful substances are filtered into this water.

"Road salt for winter highway maintenance, parking lot dust, and vehicle exhausts contribute to potentially hazardous materials in the water," said Flaherty's assistant.

Cambridge's reservoir currently has been measured to have 50 milligrams of sodium per liter, she said. The recommended standard for those persons under sodium restricted diets perscribes that water containing over 20 miligrams of sodium per liter, should not be consumed, she said.

This problem has been accentuated recently, because the large number of "ice storms and wet snow storms" during the winters of 1983/84 and 1984/85 required that increased applications of salt were necessary, she said.

The Bill

The bill proposes that the DPW find a way of redirecting the drainage pipe so that it will not flow into the Cambridge Reservoir and risk contaminating the water.

If passed, the bill will go into effect on Dec. 31, 1988, when no street or highway drainage under the control of the DPW will be discharged directly into the Cambridge Reservoir or onto any land area within 500 feet thereof, the bill states.

The bill, House 3190, had a hearing last week, where it received support other lawmakers, several of the state's water committees, and some private organizations. The DPW opposed the bill at the hearing.

"The proposed bill will take time to construct, will be somewhat costly, and will involve destruction to the roadway," said Scott L. Pickard, a spokesman at DPW.

Instead, the DPW suggests that Cambridge look at alternative proposals before taking the dramatic step of redirecting the drainage pipes.

One such alternative, said Pickard, is the use of a salt-substitute for highways. The DPW is currently testing for the first time this winter, a "pre-mix" of four parts sodium-chloride and one part calcium-chloride.

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