Local Government and Politics, News

Proposed $20 million pump station could bring West Lynn flooding relief

LYNN — The city’s Water and Sewer Commission believes a $20 million pump station at McManus Field will help alleviate flooding in West Lynn, an area that’s been battered by major rainstorms in the past couple of years.

“The area will see significant relief,” said Daniel O’Neill, Lynn Water and Sewer Commission executive director. “The wastewater treatment plant can’t handle an 8-inch rain flow. It leaves water on the lowest part of the city, (near) Bennett and Commercial (streets).”

The pump station is in the design stage and construction isn’t expected to begin until 2021 or 2022. Once completed, It would manage up to 114 million gallons of stormwater a day and be reserved for “crazy storms” similar to the deluges that caused widespread flooding and structural damage in Lynn in August and September, according to O’Neill.

The city’s wastewater treatment plant handles a maximum of 25.8 million gallons of water per day, and typically manages 15-22 million gallons per day, O’Neill said.

The proposed pump house is part of a 13-year, $200 million combined sewer outflows (CSO) project likely to start in June 2020. The work will include 15 miles of new piping between West Lynn and the downtown areas. In addition to flood relief, the planned CSO project would have separate sewer and rainwater systems to prevent improper discharge into the ocean and other bodies of water.

The CSO project will focus on West Lynn for the first six years and includes new piping on Bennett and Commercial streets. The area is at sea level, which makes it susceptible to flooding. Due to climate change and surging tides, it would be difficult to get the stormwater out through the CSO system by gravity, according to O’Neill.

“The piping is going to be at low elevation, below every single tide,” O’Neill said. “In order to push the water out, we’re going to have to build a pump station. We have to design it for the crazy storms. Ninety percent of the time it’s not going to be utilized, but it’s going to be for significant storms.”

On Tuesday, the City Council’s Public Property and Parks Committee will consider a Water and Sewer Commission request to build the pump house on 22,000 square feet of protected open space at McManus Field on Neptune Boulevard.

The move would require creating the same amount of open space elsewhere in the city, according to Robert Fennell, deputy director of the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission.

Fennell declined to say what city land has been identified for the swap, but a meeting agenda shows the Lynn Water & Sewer Commission is expected to request an investment into Edmunds Field/Needham’s Landing as public space.

“It is part of LWSC spending and not (the city),” said Ward 2 Councilor Rick Starbard, chairman of the Public Property and Parks Committee. “Our involvement comes from them needing to use some park space, but the trade-off could be unique. They need to use park space, so they will have to replace park space. I think it will be a good thing.”

The land swap would require unanimous approval from both the Conservation Commission and Lynn Park Commission, along with a two-thirds vote from the City Council and state legislature. The final design of the pump house is due by July 31, according to Fennell.

The planned CSO project is intended to bring the city in compliance with the Massachusetts Clean Water Act and parts of a 2001 consent decree filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which called for cleaning up West Lynn and the downtown.

The Lynn Water and Sewer Commission was first sued by the EPA in 1976 for discharging sewage mixed with stormwater into the ocean or other bodies of water. In 2017, the agency filed a consent decree, which ordered the city to pay a $125,000 civil penalty for violating the Clean Water Act and failing to comply with a previous decree.

The city has already spent $90 million to comply with other parts of the 2001 consent decree, a three-year project that coordinated 100,000 feet of piping to clean up King’s Beach and stop sewage from flowing into the ocean.

There are four main overflow areas in the city: Summer Street at the GE field, which flows into the Saugus River; King’s Beach in East Lynn at the Lynn/Swampscott line; Market Street; and Broad Street, which both discharge into Lynn Harbor.

O’Neill said the CSO project is being financed by the State Revolving Fund Loan Program offered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The city applied in phases and got the funds approved for the project, he said.

“When you spend $200 million, there’s no such thing as free money,” O’Neill said. “We’re just stacking debt upon debt upon debt. The (EPA) decided to assign the consent decree. I’m just implementing their wishes … Wards 1, 2, and 7 are not seeing any benefits, but they’re picking up a $200 million price tag.”

More Stories From Lynn