Budget cuts hinder environmental protection efforts in Massachusetts
Basic environmental protections for Massachusetts residents have unraveled in the last 15 years as deep budget cuts and shifting political priorities take hold.
The state has slashed bacterial testing of lakes, rivers and other surface water by more than two-thirds in the last decade, according to state-reported data analyzed by The Eye. Inspections of contaminated properties and waste and water sites, meanwhile, have dropped 24 percent from fiscal year 2001.
The state Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t collected water-quality data on the Neponset River since 2009. The Neponset River Watershed Association and other environmental groups say they are worried boaters and swimmers across the state are being exposed to high levels of bacteria or other contaminants.
An illegal discharge from a pipe connected to the state prison in Concord, first ordered to be fixed six years ago by the Department of Environmental Protection, was still apparently leaking into the Assabet River in Concord in December, when state tests found the pipe spilling elevated levels of E. coli bacteria, often a marker for sewage. Environmental Protection spokesman Joe Ferson said the agency is working with the prison to solve the problem.