I took a tour on Saturday at the Clam Purification Plant at Plum Island Point. I viewed the large tanks where sterilized salt water was pumped through the clams and I stared at the impurities that foamed at the top. Inspected the lab where sample clams were tested and saw the old setup before the place was modernized.<
The tour guide took me where most people had not visited, the cool storage unit where clams were kept until ready to be processed. To my shock, I was staring at clams that had been taken from the Merrimack River!
He explained that 15 years ago, effluent from the Sewer Plant was dyed and found out that it settled into the mud at Joppa Flats.
The Feds at that time declared the clams in this area as off limits. The clams I saw were being taken from the Salisbury side of the river as far as Rings Island.
People often give a look of utter surprise that here in 2011, raw sewage is allowed to be released from many of the sewer plants all along the Merrimack. They exclaim, “What about the Clean Water Act!?!”
What about it.
The correct and original name of the Act was the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in which a system called, “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)” controls the release of water pollutants. The Act was shortened in 1972 when it received some tightening up regulations and amendments but the new name itself is misleading.
Supposedly as the years and money and technology allow along with public outcry the sewage of our Nation would eventually be brought down to an insignificant level if not zero.
But this is where politics and bureaucratic maneuvering come into play. You see, Newburyport’s Sewage plant is also one of the facilities allowed to release into the river if their capacity can not handle the intake.
But just recently, Newburyport had a choice.
They could ‘modernize’ the plant with X amount of money to handle its current capacity but still be allowed to dump into the river. Or, for millions more; they could modernize, increase capacity and reach a current level where the plant could prevent any future releases except in extreme cases.
They ignored the fact that Newburyport Development is going to do a major expansion on our Waterfront. They turned their backs on the economic potential of the clam flats which would have made the Purification Plant no longer a financial burden on the taxpayer. They did not care about returning a vital clamming industry back into the hands of Newbury and Newburyport. And they created the heavy burden on future rate payers for expansion of the plant’s capacity in the future. (And hopefully, the ceasing of pollutants into the river.)
As a conservationist and environmentalist, it is a bitter thing to hold such knowledge.
but at least when I visit Bob Lobster or Starboard Galley; I can comfort myself in the fact that I can enjoy my clams and know that at least some of them came from our Great River.