Watchdog group: 5 to 10 million gallons of wastewater entered Merrimack

Jul. 21—NEWBURYPORT — An estimated 5 to 10 million gallons of untreated wastewater entered the Merrimack River during combined sewage overflows Tuesday morning, according to the Merrimack River Watershed Council.

The combined sewage overflows, or CSOs, compelled local and regional health officials to warn people to not come into contact with the river for more than 48 hours starting late Tuesday morning.

In Newburyport, temporary warning signs were posted along Merrimack River public access points, including the harbormaster building, Moseley Woods, Joppa Flats, Cashman Park and Plum Island.

The overflows occurred in Haverhill at 12:30 a.m., Lowell at 1:10 a.m. and Lawrence at 1:50 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the Newburyport Health Department.

The municipalities recommended that the public avoid contact with the Merrimack River due to the increased health risk from bacteria and other pollutants associated with urban storm water runoff, as well as discharges of untreated or partially treated wastewater.

John Macone of the Merrimack River Watershed Council said what happened Tuesday was small compared to overflows last summer, with some exceeding 100 million gallons.

It was the first since the state's new notification system went into effect July 6.

"That law required local boards of health to issue public alerts, which is new," Macone said, adding that due to a relatively dry summer, the number of CSOs has been "relatively few."

Tuesday marked the first time that Newburyport has had to issue a water ban this summer, according to city Health Director Laura Vlasuk, who said residents can monitor the city's Facebook page at or the city's website at for further updates.

Daily News reporter Jim Sullivan contributed to this report.

Dave Rogers is editor of the Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

Dave Rogers is editor of the Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.