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Stories of our connected and rapidly changing region.

Cities Don’t Always Tell You When There’s Sewage In The River. A New Bill Would Change That

Cambridge's wet weather sewage discharge outfall CAM 007 on the Charles River. Photo by Robin Lubbock for WBUR

Cambridge’s wet weather sewage discharge outfall CAM 007 on the Charles River. Photo by Robin Lubbock for WBUR

Gabby Queenan stands on a small lookout point by the Charles River. Behind her, a few joggers brave the cold and cars whiz by on Memorial Drive. She points out the Harvard University athletic fields across the water and the University Boathouse a few hundred yards downriver.

“This is one of the most actively used portions of the Charles River,” says Queenan, policy director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, “and I think the public has a right to know what’s in their water.”

A thin layer of crusty snow covers the ground. She gently kicks it with her boot, revealing a small green plaque.

“Warning. City of Cambridge Department of Public Works. Wet Weather Sewage Discharge Outfall. CAM007,” she reads.

“I cannot imagine that a person would look at this [sign] and think, ‘Oh this must be an area where sewage is going into the river,’ ” she says.

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