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Committee appointed to help study King’s Beach water quality

LYNN — A six-person committee will dive into the water quality issues and high bacteria levels at King’s Beach.

The committee was announced by Lynn City Council President Darren Cyr Tuesday night at the second neighborhood meeting regarding the beach. The appointed members are State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, Dulce Gonzalez from State Senator Brendan Crighton’s office, Lynn Water Sewer Commission’s (LWSC) Deputy Director Bob Fennell, Lynn Director of Public Health Michele Desmarais, Swampscott Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald and Michael Celona of Friends of Lynn & Nahant Beach. 

The members will meet monthly at the LWSC headquarters on Parkland Avenue. Cyr said there is available cash to fund the committee and Lynn is working with the Department of Conservation and Recreation to secure it.

“Everybody realizes there’s a problem here that we need to fix, which is why we have appointed this committee,” said Cyr. “We are a lot further today than we were two weeks ago at our first meeting … This isn’t going to be fixed overnight, it’s been an ongoing problem for years and we’re going to do everything we can to try and ratify it.”

When the committee was initially announced at the beginning of the meeting, there were only five members. Ehrlich stood up halfway through and volunteered herself to be appointed. Before going back to her seat, she thanked Cyr for bringing such an important issue to a wider audience.

At the first meeting on July 30, Cyr explained, per information given to by the LWSC, that the water quality issues revolved around the combined drainage from Swampscott and Lynn, confined in an old, decrepit pipe, that makes its way into Stacey Brook and oozes onto the beach. The higher levels of bacteria tend to happen after large amounts of rainfall occur in a short period of time, he said. 

Douglas Maitland, a longtime Lynn Shore Drive resident, got up to the podium Tuesday night and reminded Cyr of the two rainstorms that have occurred since the first meeting, which led to more sewage overflows into King’s Beach.

“After that last meeting on a Tuesday, there was a storm the following day on Wednesday,” said Maitland. “There weren’t signs at the beach identifying the sewage overflow or advising residents not to swim until three days later on Saturday. The following week, it was the same situation, heavy rain on a Tuesday but no signs at the beach until the following Saturday. That is not enough notice to the public.”

Cyr said the LWSC has a 48 to 72 hour incubation period before they can re-test the water’s bacteria levels. It’s a process, he added.

“Let’s say yesterday’s bacteria counts were high but the next day they appear OK,” said Cyr. “We aren’t going to officially know or be able to inform the public until at least a day later … “If it were me and it rained heavily, I personally would wait 72 hours before going into the water.”

Residents at the first meeting stated there wasn’t enough signage advising people not to swim during high level bacteria counts. Since then, a digital board has been placed at King’s Beach to inform residents and visitors of any or all water quality issues, said Cyr.

“We know there is an issue with how the public is being informed during these situations and we continue to work with DCR on it,” said Cyr.

Attendees of the first meeting also said they wanted to hear from Swampscott, and those in the chambers on Tuesday were pleased to see Fitzgerald in attendance. One Lynn resident asked the Swampscott town administrator to speak on the town’s behalf and address how they are handling their side of the issue.

“King’s Beach needs to go back to what it was generations ago, when families could enjoy it safely,” Fitzgerald said. “Swampscott has invested millions and will continue to invest millions to fix this. (The town has) currently underway a $2 million state mandated project to help resolve this. We need to work together, we are fatally intertwined in terms of the potential to solve some of these problems.”

There will be a meeting with the newly appointed committee sometime in the next two weeks, said Cyr.

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