Tag Archives: Resilience

Rooftop Solar in Belmont

In November 2015 the Belmont Light  Board implemented a new solar-friendly policy after years of discussion which provides a feed-in tariff for solar power that is fed back into the grid at 11 cents per kWh. This has spurred an explosion of solar installations in Belmont, mostly through the Belmont Goes Solar community campaign, which runs from January 2016 to March 2018, and has brought more than 290 new roof top solar systems into town so far.  The federal and state incentives are still very lucrative and together with the Belmont feed-in tariff makes solar systems affordable. State-level financial incentives which represent a third of the installation cost will be expiring very soon.  If you are interested in getting solar you can check out more information at BelmontGoesSolar.org, or contact Martin Plass (one of the Belmont Solar Coaches) at mplass@zeroplus.us.

Read more about Solar in Belmont:

2016 Rain Barrel Time!

Belmont Residents Can Purchase Discount Rain Barrels

It’s rain barrel time in Belmont residents. Six years ago Sustainable Belmont partnered with Great American Rain Barrel to help residents conserve water and reduce flooding. To date, Sustainable Belmont has sold over 233 barrels. (Considering that each barrel holds 60 gallons of water that’s at least 13,980 gallons of water residents are diverting from Belmont’s over-burdened sewer-system each year). And, your plants will be happier to have non-chlorinated water feeding their leaves and roots!

Pictured are the green, gray and black rain barrels available for purchase through the discount program.

Great American Rain Barrel Discount Purchasing Program

Because of space requirements to store them at DPW, this discount program is offered just once yearly in the spring.

Each UV protected polyethylene rain barrel is manufactured in the USA from a recycled shipping drum and stands 39″ tall by 24″ wide and weighs 20 lbs. empty. The barrel comes complete with overflow fittings, drain plug, mesh screen for keeping out bugs and leaves, and a threaded spigot with a choice of two ports to use with either a watering can or a garden hose. The rain barrel arrives with simple instructions for fast and easy installation.

The Great American Rain Barrel comes in three colors; Forest Green, Earth Brown or Nantucket Gray and cost $75 to Belmont residents versus the retail price of $119; or $70 for an unpainted barrel.

To take advantage of this Belmont program please go to: https://www.greatamericanrainbarrel.com/p-124-great-american-rain-barrel-belmont.aspx

or call (800)251-2352.

The deadline for *ordering* is Sunday, June 18th at 5:00pm.
Barrels will be available for *pick up* Saturday, June 25th from 9:00-11:00am, at the Belmont DPW on C Street.

Belmont Goes Solar 2016

The Town’s official Energy Committee has formed a working group to lead the Belmont Goes Solar campaign. They have put out an RFP (Request for Proposals) and a representative will share a 15-20 minute briefing at the beginning of our meeting. The official campaign is expected to begin on Jan 1, 2016. Volunteer support will be needed at that time and for some activities for late November and December.

If you would like to help with this campaign in any manner, please send an email to sustainablebelmont[at]gmail.com and I will forward it to the working group or contact the Energy Committee directly. There will be a variety of needs, from knocking on doors, to conversations with neighbors, to social media sharing. Please let us know how you could help and what availability you would have. Thank you!

You can also keep updated at Belmont Clean Energy.com

Stormwater Working Group – September 24, 2015

Belmont Stormwater Working Group
Meeting Minutes September 24, 2015

A core group of eight of us attended the September meeting to review the September 10 ‘Water Trouble’  forum, and to set priorities for the coming year.  Note: there were no BSWG meetings in July and August, as we prepared for the forum.

Over 75 citizens from Belmont, Arlington, Watertown and elsewhere attended the successful September 10 ‘Water Trouble’  forum at Winn Brook School.  The  BCF web site now includes articles about the event and other stormwater issues, as well as the Stormwater Fact Sheets prepared as handouts for the event. A 90-minute  recording of the event is posted on belmontmedia.org, and another article about the event is posted on  the Belmont Citizens Herald web site. We will be posting answers to questions submitted during the forum on our BCF web site.

The event provided education about different approaches to storm water management, and enabled a dialogue among different experts and stakeholders from the three towns at a time when tighter EPA regulations are about to be issued.  This education built citizen support for prioritizing increased planning and investment in the necessary sanitary sewer monitoring, inspection, and repairs locally, including help at the state level to ensure that it’s possible to amortize the cost of repairs which will last 100 years over a comparable period (most bond financing is currently restricted to 30 years).

The priorities which we discussed for BSWG included:

  1.  Promote greater town investment in identifying and fixing broken sanity sewers: Broken pipes in our 76-mile sewer system are by far the biggest source of bacteria pollution in Belmont’s ponds and streams. The current approach of fixing pipes as they are exposed during the town’s 30-year Pavement Management program does not appear to be enough to address the problem in a timely manner.  The town can (and does) reline many pipes from manhole to manhole without excavation, so coordination with the Pavement Management program isn’t necessary.  The Belmont Board of Selectmen have requested a public presentation on the Belmont sewer system by Glenn Clancy, Directory of the Office for Community Development.  The likely date will be in November.  We discussed offering to meet with town officials ahead of this meeting, something Ralph offered to take the lead on.   We’d like to understand (a) plans to take smart water quality measurements to prioritize repairs, (b) what is currently known about high risk areas, and (c) how to accelerate the development of a timeline and plan for budgeting for and making the necessary repairs.
  2. Assist with finding and advocating for financing methods for sanitary sewer repair: These might include (a) increased water rates, (b) a new stormwater utility fee,  (c) long-term bond financing (more than 30 years) and/or (d) state and federal grants.   We had a lively discussion about the pros and cons of advocating for (a) versus (b). Given that the main pollution problem with stormwater in Belmont would be addressed by fixing pipes which are funded by the existing water enterprise fund, spending energy to advocate for creating a separate stormwater enterprise fund through a stormwater utility fee seemed like a lower priority than advocating for increase  the rates which go into the existing water enterprise fund.  However, as noted by a recent editorial by Roger Colton, a stormwater utility could make the town eligible for certain state and federal grants (d), and could also be used to address stormwater issues which are not in scope of the existing water enterprise fund, e.g. non-bacteria pollution and funding addressed by green infrastructure projects such as rain gardens. There was agreement that supporting legislative efforts at the state level to allow towns to borrow across multiple generations  for sewer repair (and not just 30 years) was an appropriate priority (c).
  3. Organize a stormwater catch basin stencilling program: In coordination with Belmont DPW, the BSWG could organize volunteers to add stencils which remind citizens not to dump pet waste and toxic waste into the stormwater catch basins. Pet waste in the storm drains is considered a significant source of bacteria in our ponds and streams, yet many uneducated pet owners continue the practice of depositing pet waste into the drains. Belmont Boy Scouts have done small-scale stenciling projects in the past.   We may also want to request that the Town Clerk include a reminder notice when pet owners receive their pet license.
  4. Grant-writing for green infrastructure (e.g. rain gardens): We discussed working with town officials to line up in-kind donations of labor and equipment (“local share”) so we can be prepared for the next grant opportunity which might fund rain gardens at the high school and library. We also discussed working with other stake holders to develop  a workable maintenance plan for such green infastructure projects.
  5. Stormwater education reminders in the water bill: Radha suggested requesting that storm water management tips for citizens be distributed with the water bill.
  6. Clay Pit Pond drainage clean-out and pump down: After some discussion of the research done on this proposal, the group agreed that the highest priority should be on requesting that the town ensure that the drains from Clay Pit Pond be inspected and cleared.  There is visible debris in them which is likely to impede flows during storm events.  Ralph said he’d include this in his planned conversation with Glenn, and Anne-Marie said she would raise this in any conversation she had with Jay Marcotte.  Bill recommended adding Clay Pit Pond to the ICM hydraulic (?hydrology) model being developed for Cambridge (the model currently only goes as far as Blair Pond from the ocean).
  7. Plant More Trees: large trees can be one of the most efficient ways to retain stormwater.  We should work with other stakeholders to figure out what it would take to increase the number of public and private trees in Belmont.
  8. Sewer lateral inspection ordnance:
  9. BoS education: once the next draft of the Climate Change Report is available (late October/early November, with projections on the impact of climate change in 2045 n 2070, BSWG should request that the BoS hear a presentation about it.

Other candidate priorities:

  • Planning Board process: educating the planning board about stormwater issues and which could be raised during the special permits proess may represent an opportunity for citizens to voice concern about storm water management, especially  for larger projects.
  • ABC TriCommunity Flooding Board of Arlington,  Belmont, and Cambridge has been getting very low attendance; citizen attendance could help.

Other ideas which just need volunteers to invest time:

  • Monitor Belmont Manor rain garden: this rain garden was mandated by the Belmont Conservation Commission as a condition of a development project; apparently it’s not working well. Let’s understand whether it’s a design issue or a maintenance issue before we push for
  •  Monitor Belmont electric substation by Blair Pond:  Attending meetings related to new developments keeps officials accountable and citizens informed.  Become an expert in this major project.
  • Monitor new McLean development At the January 13Belmont ConCom meeting, the Conservation Agent (Mary Trudeau) expressed concern about pervious pavement proposed by a recent construction project submitted by the McLean Hospital to the Planning Board. Her concern was that a more comprehensive view of drainage issues (e.g. catch basin location) for the whole site be taken into consideration rather than being considered in individual piecemeal projects.  Attending meetings related to new developments keeps officials accountable and citizens informed. Become an expert in this major project.
  • Monitor Uplands development Attending meetings related to new developments keeps officials accountable and citizens informed.  Research to become an expert on this major construction project to help educate others on what it means to be compliant with the state regulations which use outdated rain data, what the effects of “dewatering” during construction into Little River are, and what has been discovered about the ground water levels on the recently poured foundations.
  • Improve 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 RegulationsCambridge Wastewater and Stormwater Use 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.
  • Improve Coordination with Cambridge and Arlington:  Fresh Pond Developmentsat 88 Cambridge Park Drive, New Street, and other nearby sites in Cambridge, as well as the newly proposed 40B project on the Mugar Property across Route 2 in Arlington are progressing rapidly through the permitting process and may have stormwater impact on waterways connected to Belmont.  Attend the ABC Tri Community Flooding Group meetings or monitor the Cambridge City web site or the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance or the Coalition to Save the Mugar Wetlands web sites for details.

2015 Green Belmont Garden Tour

Sunday September 13, 2015
11 am to 3 pm

Explore organic gardens in Belmont on September 13 from 11 to 3 pm rain or shine. Sustainable Belmont is hosting its 5th Green Garden tour. This free self-guided garden tour highlights a variety of safe and healthy organic garden practices. You’ll have a chance to visit Belmont residences, talk to the gardeners at the Burbank school, and meet the high school students who are growing food for Belmont’s food pantry. Visit local gardeners who specialize flowers or vegetable gardens; chicken-raising; composting; and bees!

This year you will have an opportunity to enter a chance to win a free home-garden visit with master gardeners, Nancy Forbes and Lucia Gates with each garden you visit.

Maps & Info – 3 Options
•  Pick up from the Beech Street Center at 266 Beech Street during event and meet other local gardeners there!
•  Download and print the 2015 brochure with map.
•  Follow this link to the Google Map which includes the garden descriptions on our printed brochure.

Stormwater Initiatives for 2015

Volunteers came forward for leading the following 2015 initiatives. Contact Anne-Marie Lambert if you are interested in learning more or working on any intitiatives,  ammlambert [a] gmail.com:

  • Soil data gathering project: Betty Krikorian and one of the BHS students feel strongly we need to gather existing detailed data about the soil composition in Belmont and enter it into the GIS system for further analysis so that the information is more readily available when considering where it’s feasible to infiltrate storm water.  Betty provided an example of flooding on top of the Waverly Hill near Watertown, presumably due to the existence of rocks and/or clay beneath the foundation rather than permeable soil.  Anne-Marie noted that most modern developments in town require soil borings be filed in Town offices, and that there are also many historical soil borings available. Do you have energy and expertise for helping Betty and Rakia complete this project?
  • Water quality monitoring initiative: Frank Frazier has great interest in exploring whether new miniaturized sensor technology might be useful for monitoring water quality in Belmont streams and rivers, and will be investigating options in this area, including talking with MyRWA to understand what they are doing.  Can you help Frank move forward with this project?
  • “Neighbor-to-Neighbor” Communications Program: Walley is seeking someone with marketing expertise to help educate upstream neighbors about how they can mitigate the adverse effects on downstream neighbors of sending storm water downstream more rapidly (and more polluted) than necessary.  Are you a downstream neighbor? Do you have a marketing background?
  • Get the Belmont rain gardens built at the High School and Library: Anne-Marie continues to seek help with writing grant proposals to implement the high-level concept designs now in hand thanks to last year’s 604B grant. The town should move forward with funding their implementation.  Can you help by writing grants and letters proposing that the town prioritize these worthy projects?
  • Depaving projects in Belmont: Radha would welcome help using Frank’s Pervious Driveway flyer  (and Frank’s longer pervious pavement project guide) to “free the soil” in Belmont by seeking and helping implement depaving projects in 2015.  Project number one (a residential driveway) is on track;  Can you help Radha find and make a few more happen before 2015 is over?

Other ideas which just need volunteers to invest time in include:

  • Clay Pit Pumping Project: Bill Pisano was not able to attend this meeting but wrote via email that he is interested in contributing to the development and exploration of the pros and cons of a proposal to lower Clay Pit Pond by pumping its waters downstream in advance of major storms. While expensive, this type of project may ultimately be the best bang for the buck to protect the Winn Brook neighborhood from flooding.  Perhaps you could be the project manager who works with Bill and turns all his expertise into a concrete proposal for the town to consider funding?
  • Investigate a Storm water Utility Fee in Belmont: building on the storm water bylaw and bylaw regulations passed last year, a storm water utility fee can encourage more pervious surfaces in town. See MyRWA Executive Director EK Khalsa’s letter to the editor in the January/February Belmont Citizens Forum newsletter for a great summary of why Belmont needs this and how to supplement it with grant funding for clean up projects.  Are you up for doing the research to help the town to leverage the Stormwater Financing/Utility Toolkit compiled by the MWRA advisory board for towns to use as they set up storm water utility fees?
  • Stay diligent with the Uplands proposal:  let’s not let the sad demise of six acres of the silver maple forest in October distract us from the need to make sure the town remains aware of the need to ensure that 150,000 gallons of excess storm water from the proposed construction does not increase flooding risk.  With no Belmont building permit issued, increased awareness among Belmont Selectmen about the economic risks of development (e.g. Lesley University professor presentation to BoS meeting October 14, 2014), more Cambridge City Councillors waking up to the down side of all the development Cambridge has been permitting in the Alewife area, and increased risk of flooding from a mid-Winter thaw, it’s a good time to show that citizen concern about storm water is still high. Can you attend any of the meetings below, for example, or work with the Coalition to Preserve the Belmont Uplands?
  • “Water Trouble” Forum #2: it may be time to hold another large public forum like the “Water Trouble” Forum held by Belmont Citizens Forum in September 2012 —  sometimes public education can create new energy and ideas for addressing big problems like pollution and flowing. Is event planning your thing?
  • Your Idea Here!

At the Belmont Stormwater Working Group Dropbox location you can find earlier presentations, minutes from previous BSWG meetings, and other interesting material. Details on the last two meetings (October 23 and December 11) are not yet available, however.

Stormwater Working Group – An Overview of Issues

On January 15, the Belmont Stormwater Working Group met to discuss priorities for 2015.  Many new Belmont High School students joined the meeting, so Walley and Anne-Marie first took some time to describe the basics of storm water-related issues and activities in Belmont:

  • There are two very different storm water-related issues: Pollution and Flooding
  • Both issues are exacerbated by having a lot of impervious surface very close to rivers and streams: this causes storm water to wash hydrocarbons, other pollutants, and soil into rivers and streams, which then become both polluted and shallower (from the bottom up).  The shallowness represents a reduction in the capacity of a river to handle large volumes of storm water during heavy rain storms, resulting in flooding.
  • Most of Belmont is in the Alewife Brook sub-watershed, which is currently about 47% impervious.  Anne-Marie distributed historical aerial photos from 1938 versus later years and explained the history of Belmont’s transformation from an agricultural community with lots of pervious surface to a residential community with 86 miles of impervious roads and driveways and buildings
  • Walley explained the importance of neighbors talking to neighbors to raise awareness of the impact of the actions of uphill neighbors on downhill neighbors during storm events.  From a show of hands, only two participants lived in the low-lying Winn Brook neighborhood, making for an entertaining dialog between Winn Brook residents and the rest of the group for the rest of the meeting.
  • Both Pollution and Flooding are also exacerbated by increased rainfall from climate change.  Rainfall data collected through 1958 were used to estimate that the 100-year storm was 6.5 inches.  Additional rainfall data collected through 2008 indicate that the 100-year storm is now 8.8 inches.
  • Significant accomplishments of the Belmont Stormwater Working Group in 2014 include:
    • Successfully advocated for Belmont storm water regulations to incorporate up-to-date rainfall data when assessing compliance by new developments
    • Contributed to the 604B project which delivered high-level concept diagrams for rain gardens at the high school and library. These projects are designed to address pollution issues.  Belmont Manor already has a rain garden, which was installed to comply with Conservation Commission conditions.
    • Provided the town with a  porous pavement brochure to educate homeowners planning to repave their driveway. Leader Bank has already installed porous pavement, which was installed to comply with Conservation Commission conditions. At Fresh Pond in Cambridge, a trail with porous pavement was recently opened near the water purification plan. Frank encouraged people to experiment with pouring water on these surfaces to see them in action!
    • Identified our first depaving project, scheduled for the Spring of 2015
  • The book “The Big Thirst, the Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water” by Charles Fishman was recommended by Betty Krikorian
  • The movie “Dirt, The Movie” was recommended by Anne-Marie, who had just seen it at the Cambridge water purification plant
  • The MIT water club, “the leading network for water research and innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology”  and the December 2014 MIT water summit were recommended by Betty as well

There was an active intergenerational discussion about a variety of topics, including how porous pavement is made, how it needs to be maintained (e.g. vacuuming every few years to keep it porous), how it doesn’t work as well when installed on top of rock or clay, what the role of the Conservation Commission is.  Anne-Marie described some recent work in Cambridge to encourage citizens to access municipal data to help the government address community problems (e.g. a Climate Co-lab initiative about the Urban Heat Island effect and a Cambridge Open Data initiative). There was discussion of GIS data and its relevance to the 604B project and other “green” storm water management projects.

Contributed by Anne-Marie Lambert