Stormwater Working Group, Sept 18 Review

At our  September 18 meeting, Belmont High School AP Biology students joined us for stormwater management expert Bill Pisano’s talk, Details on Cambridge CAM004 Sewer Separation Program. Bill educated us all about the fascinating details of two major underground stormwater projects in Cambridge just downstream from Belmont: one project was at Fresh Pond Parkway (1997-1999) near the traffic rotary at Wheeler Street; the other is the 400-acre sewer separation project in the stormwater catchment area CAM 004 by the Alewife T station (ongoing since 2001 with a December 2015 EPA-mandated deadline).

Anne-Marie provided an update on a number of activities, including a pilot depaving project, a MEPA Notice of Project Change (NPC) filed by Anne-Marie notifying MEPA about the change in extreme precipitation storms and its effect on the Uplands project, and a successful Meet Belmont event in August.  More details are provided below on these and other activities related to stormwater in Belmont.

Meanwhile, FYI, the Belmont Board of Selectmen have  scheduled the necessary public hearing on the new stormwater regulations for this Monday, September 29 at 7:00 p.m.Please attend to show interest and encourage them to approve the current draft.At the Belmont Stormwater Working Group Dropbox location you can also find earlier presentations and minutes from previous BSWG meetings.  Many thanks to Bill  for a great presentation and discussion with our group.  This message includes several links via highlighted text you can click on, including Bill’s presentation and paper, Anne-Marie’s MEPA NPC, and Belmont’s stormwater regulations.

Our next meeting will be: Thursday October 23, 2014 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the BelmontMemorial Library Assembly Room.  We will provide an update on the initiatives below.

– Anne-Marie and Fred

Notes from September 18 Meeting:  Details on Cambridge CAM004 Sewer Separation Program, by Bill Pisano (click to see presentation)


Bill educated us all about the fascinating details of two major underground stormwater projects in Cambridge just downstream from Belmont: one project was at Fresh Pond Parkway (1997-1999) near the traffic rotary at Wheeler Street; the other is the 400-acre sewer separation project in the stormwater catchment area CAM 004 by the Alewife T station (ongoing since 2001 with a December 2015 EPA-mandated deadline).  These projects are also described in a recent paper in the journal of the American Water Works Association (AWWA): “‘Tertiary level’ sewer separation benefits Great Swamp”, co-authored by Bill Pisano with David Bedoya, Dennis Carr, and Emerson Olander of MWH Global and Owen O’Riordan, Commissioner of Public Works for Cambridge.  Bill is a Belmont resident and senior advisor for MWH Global. He serves as client service manager and technical program manager for the City of Cambridge stormwater management and sewer separation program. These two projects are a response to a USEPA court order to reduce the incidence of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into Alewife Brook in order to help clean up Boston Harbor.  These complex projects have included 25 years of adaptive planning and sustainable engineering in order to cope with stormwater  in the now developed land area near Fresh Pond, Little River, and Alewife Brook, a former wetlands area  known as the “Great Swamp” in the 1800s.

Some detailed notes to accompany the slides (also see Bill’s AWWA paper referenced above):

  • I/I=Infiltration/Inflow
  • CSO=Combined Sewer Overflow; SSO=Sanitary Sewer Overflow; there are wet weather SSO events and dry weather SSO events
  • overflow events involve backups into the streets and, sometimes, into basements
  • when visualizing one acre-foot of water, it can be helpful to imagine one football field flooded to a level of one foot
  • after the Boston Harbor Cleanup law suit, a 1991 court order triggered 3 projects which must complete by December 2015 to avoid jail time and fines
    • contract 2 (combined sewer separation along Wheeler Street)
    • contract 8 & 9 ((combined sewer separation in CAM004 area near Huron Ave)
    • contract 12 (stormwater wetland and conveyance pipeline) — without the wetlands project, the other projects would not have been possible
  • the 1991 court order resulted in the splitting of the former MDC into MWRA (Mass Water Resources Authority) and DCR (Dept Conservation and Recreation)
  • there are videos available online about the wetlands project, which has already won several design awards
  • there is a 4’x8′ underground culvert to convey stormwater from the Concord Rotary to the wetlands (under Wheeler St., terminating just south of Cambridge Park Drive
  • one challenge was that the Belmont interceptor was higher than advertised, requiring redesign of the gravitational system
  • a special German bending weir was used to deflect small highly polluted flows to the wetlands pond for initial treatment, before storms became very large
  • Belmont catch basins are shallower than they need to be to capture sediment effectively
  • Discussion: should Belmont consider draining Clay Pit Pond in advance of major storms in order to mitigate flooding?
  • a 1997 project required reconstructing pipes under Fresh Pond Parkway from Huron to Concord Rotary and along Wheeler Street in such a way that they would be less vulnerable to clogging
  • the pipes there were vulnerable to clogging from “fog” (fat + oil + grease) from local restaurants, as well as sand and debris
  • the pipes there were essentially flat; there were 17 pipes under the 4 lanes of traffic, some in use, others abandoned.
  • the Wheeler Street drain used to be an open trench, the remains of Alewife Brook from the time Alewife went all the way to Fresh Pond
  • in the 1940s, a 17″ pipe was installed under Wheeler Street to address the stench of the Wheeler Street ditch
  • because catchbasins were not functional, streets were flooding and at one point the curbs on the rotary were notched by the MDC, allowing polluted stormwater to flow into the Fresh Pond reservoir
  • in 1977 a clever system was designed to create a daily “flush wave” by routing the sticky filtrate waste from the water treatment plant into a special trough which “tips” and creates a cleansing “flush wave” when it reaches a certain height; this was an adaptation of a tank cleaning technology
  • after much deliberation, it was shown to be economical for the city of Cambridge to fund “private property inflow (PPI) control” measures to find and reroute roof drains and sump pumps so they went into the stormwater system instead of the sewer system
  • Bill’s presentation has some great photos of the construction of this complex set of underground stormwater management measures

Please reply with any further notes and corrections, which I will incorporate in the online version of these minutes.

Update on Stormwater-related happenings since August 24 reminder message (click on the web links embedded in the text for even more information):

  • 604B Mystic River Headwaters Project. As we wait for the final version of  the project report summarized in Patrick’s presentation on Belmont Conceptual Designsfor rain gardens, volunteers are still needed to study the funding opportunities and participate in writing grants against opportunities like the Coastal Zone Management CPR (September), the Mass Environmental Trust (September), the Clean Water Act 319 program (April), the Mass Urban and Community Forestry Grant, or ongoing opportunities like the in lieu stormwater fund proposed in Belmont or the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Please see Anne-Marie or Patrick if you are available for this.
  • Belmont stormwater regulations: The Belmont Board of Selectmen have  scheduled the necessary public hearing for Monday, September 29 at 7:00 p.m. The great news is that the current draft regulations now includes reference to updated NRCC precipitation data. With the first proposed development for a duplex tear-down now submitted, the urgency of approving the regulations is growing.
  • Cambridge Climate Vulnerability Study:  On September 26, project manager John Bolduc ( announced further delay in their estimate to complete the interim vulnerability assessment report: from November 2014 to January 2015 due to the unexpected complexity of the flood modeling. Meanwhile, check out a recent analysis of flood risk in the Alewife section on pages 36-43 of  the Urban Institute’s “The Urban Implications of Living with Water” .  It provides a startling visual of future flooding risks along Fawcett Street in Cambridge.
  • Coordination with Cambridge: understanding regulations: The selectmen and other town officials seem interested in learning more about Cambridge rules and regulations in areas bordering the Belmont Uplands, but still seem hard-pressed to find time to do so. Please contact Anne-Marie if you are able to volunteer to study Cambridge Land Disturbance Regulations, Cambridge Wastewater and StormwaterUse Regulations, and/or Cambridge Zoning Regulations in the Concord-Alewife Overlay District and Floodplain Overlay District  so that we can help educate ourselves and own town about any lessons learned.
  • Coordination with Cambridge: pervious pavement:  A recent discussion with Cambridge City Engineer Kathy Watkins included mention of pervious pavement projects in Cambridge, including in parking lanes and at the Fresh Pond Reservoir.  Please contact Anne-Marie if you are able to volunteer to study Cambridge pervious pavement projects.
  • Coordination with Cambridge and Arlington: Uplands:  The town administrators of Belmont and Arlington and the town manager of Cambridge recently met to discuss the Silver Maple Forest on the Belmont Uplands.  The Cambridge City Manager, Richard Rossi, summarizes the meeting and the situation in a September 8 letter to the City Council. This letter includes a September 2 memo from Cambridge DPW + ConCom, which itself includes an August 22 memo from the DCR. Here is my summary:
    •  The September 8 letter from Rossi states that a purchase of the Belmont Uplands “would be [an] extremely complicated and very expensive undertaking and in conflict with other important open space project needs” and advises City Counsel to be cautious about participating in any adverse actions concerning the Belmont Uplands.
    • The Cambridge DPW + ConCom letter of September 2 provides background on the regulatory status of the Cambridge portion of the Belmont Uplands development
    • The Cambridge DPW + ConCom letter of September 2 summarizes the position of the Town of Arlington as willing to participate in discussions but having the 17-acre Mugar property as a higher priority land purchase
    • The Cambridge DPW + ConCom letter of September 2 summarizes the position of the Town of Belmont as actively seeking an alternative to 40B and willing to go to Town Meeting for an appropriation if “a financially responsible alternative is agreed upon with the developer”
    • The Cambridge DPW + ConCom letter of September 2 references a 9/3/2014 conversation with a “representative of the property owner” saying the property “is not being actively marketed for sale at this time”
    • The DCR letter of August 22 responds to the City Manager’s execution of the policy order by declining to to make consideration of current precipitation data a condition of accepting a Conservation Restriction.  They note that FEMA floodplain maps incorporate updated precipitation data and cite the fact that the updated precipitation data has not yet been adopted by the state agency responsible for stormwater regulations ( ie DEP).
  • Belmont electric substation by Blair Pond:  See  the Belmontonian article about the September 23 public hearing about the electric substation project.   Separate hearings will be held in the fall for the project to install transmission lines. The applicant’s representatives at Tetra Tech have stated that they are considering a strategy which will avoid open trench to install lines under Wellington Brook.
  • Coordination with Cambridge:  Fresh Pond Developments: 88 Cambridge Park Drive, New Street, and other projects are progressing rapidly through the permitting process and may have stormwater impact on waterways connected to Belmont.  Monitor the Cambridge City web site or the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance web site for details.
  • Belmont Uplands MEPA NPC: On September 17, Anne-Marie filed a Notice of Project Change (NPC) with the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency (MEPA) notifying MEPA about the change in extreme precipitation storms and its effect on the Uplands project.  This is an unconventional NPC. MEPA has solicited input from the developer’s attorney before deciding whether to publish the NPC in the bimonthly Environmental Monitor publication
  • Belmont Uplands building permit status:  With a peer review of traffic mitigation measures completed August 26, the building permit application appears ever closer to completion, possibly as soon as 4-6 weeks away from September 24, when survey trucks were observed at the property, with surveyors leaving markers labelled with the names of buildings and driveways, as well as the Limit of Work boundary in the rear by the North Trail.   One of the requests from Glenn Clancy was to consolidate lots, an activity which may have required surveying.
  • Belmont Uplands Activism and in the Media: There are articles about the importance of preserving the Silver Maple Forest in the September/October 2014 issue of the  Scout Somerville, in the Fall edition of the Mystic Messenger (from MyRWA), and in the September 4 edition of the Arlington Advocate. Friends of Alewife Reservation and a new “Silver Maple Forest Alliance” of groups has initiated a series of weekly vigils to advocate for preservation.  Advocates plan to march in the Honk! parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square on Sunday, October 12.  Anne-Marie will be giving a history nature walk starting at the Acorn Park Drive parking lot on October 19 from 2:00-4:00, and delivering a history lecture about the Uplands for the Belmont Historical Society on October 26 from 2:00-4:00 at the Belmont Library.
  • Pervious Driveway flyer:   Frank’s flyer is still available on the town web site. Alonger pervious pavement project guide with information about landscape designers, masonry contractors, and other useful tips for residents considering a pervious driveway is also available.
  • Depaving: Belmont Citizens Forum (Radha Iyengar) has found a pilot depaving project: the Paulsens’ driveway!  See Radha if you’re interested in helping, or stay tuned for more information.
  • Water Quality Monitoring: good sources on local water quality include the USGSreal-time gage measurements of the height and discharge of Alewife BrookMyRWA’s monitoring at Winn’s Brook, and some recent data from Cambridge DPW for the oxbow of the Alewife Constructed Wetland. Contact MyRWA if you want to become a water quality volunteer.
  • ABC TriCommunity Flooding Board of Arlington,  Belmont, and Cambridge held their first meeting September 9, with only Arlington and Cambridge represented. For minutes and more information see the Google Group Tricommunity Flooding Groupon Flooding Issues.Their next meeting is scheduled for November 11.

Upcoming Events related to stormwater include:

  • Monday September 29, 6:00 p.m., Silver Maple Forest vigil Call 617-415-1884 for more details from Friends of Alewife Reservation
  • Monday, September 29, 7:00 p.m., Belmont Board of Selectmen public hearing on the draft stormwater regulations
  • Thursday, October 2, 7:30 p.m., Silver Maple Forest vigil Call 617-415-1884 for more details from Friends of Alewife Reservation
  • Tuesday, October 7, 7:00, Belmont Conservation Commission Meeting
  • Sunday, October 12, 2014, noon: Honk! parade, including advocacy group to support saving the Silver Maple Forest (see for details)
  • Sunday, October 19, 2014, 2:00-4:00: Little River History Nature Walk, Acorn Park parking lot
  • Thursday, October 23, 2014, 7:00-9:00: Belmont Stormwater Working Group at the Belmont Library
  • <Sunday, October 26, 2014, 2:30 “The Belmont Uplands:a History of the Changing Use of Land and Water “, Belmont Library, lecture by Anne-Marie Lambert
  • Saturday, November 1, 2014, 9:30-12:30, Preparing for Climate Change, a panel discussion at Jenks Senior Center, Winchester. Includes Kathy Baskin of Belmont.
  • Tuesday, November 11, 2014: Tricommunity Flooding Group on Flooding Issues, Meeting #2, 6:00, Arlington Town Hall, 2nd floor