HALIFAX — State representatives Thomas J. Calter, D-Kingston, and Josh S. Cutler, D-Duxbury, tried to assure angry residents that their efforts to deal with the Department of Environmental Protection on the Monponsett Ponds issue is making progress.
Both legislators have worked to bring the plight of the ponds to the attention of the State House, looking for a solution.
The meeting of the Central Plymouth County Water District, held at the Halifax Town Hall Great Room Monday, Sept. 14, brought a couple dozen residents and other interested water folks to vent their frustration with the lack of response by Brockton and the Department of Environmental Protection.
Chaired by Plympton’s Jack O’Leary, who was joined by Halifax attorney Paul Collis, clerk, the meeting was a forum for much needed discussion.
West Monponsett Pond is in the height of an algae bloom, despite the extensive and expensive efforts of the Town of Halifax to treat the pond three times this past summer. The City of Brockton, whose main source of water is Silver Lake, located in Plympton, Pembroke and Kingston, was given emergency authority in a 1964 legislative action to divert water from West Monponsett pond, through East Monponsett pond, and Stump Brook to bring up the levels of Silver Lake for Brockton’s use. Diverting this water has left a serious situation with toxic algae growing in the pond and dead fish on the shore, both seemingly as a result of the lowering of the water level and reversing the natural flow of the west Monponsett pond to cause stagnation.
Hanson resident Audrey Hayward of Ocean Avenue said that her property value has plummeted due to the toxic stench. She also blames her health issues on the green algae in the pond.
“They (the symptoms) appear when the green water comes,” Hayward said. “It never dies, just goes down to the bottom of the pond in cold weather. . . . We can’t have company, cook-outs, with the stench and the fish belly-up on the shore.”
She said she has to keep her dog from drinking the pond water, and is still having a hard time making the payments on a very expensive septic system that the DEP strongly insisted that she and her neighbors invest in for the sake of the ponds. She sees no improvement, in fact things are worse from her point of view, and she still has the large payments on the $40,000 to $50,000 septic system to make. Her neighborhood friend of more than 30 years is losing her home to foreclosure as she isn’t able to make those payments.
“Losing your home because of a septic system? That just isn’t right,” Hayward said.
Hayward continued that she continually sees boaters on the pond, speeding around, throwing up aerosolized toxins people then inhale.
“I watch people out there pulling their 7- or 8-year-old children on tubes, splashing on the water, breathing in the aerosolized foam,” she said. “Why is that boat ramp still open? How do we stop that? You can’t have it both ways!”
Pine DuBois of the Jones River Watershed Association said, “There needs to be a forum… The DEP needs to hear this woman.”
Halifax Selectmen Chairman Kim Roy told Hayward that Halifax is limited in its authority over the state boat ramp. They do put out signs, but the signs need to be improved.
Brockton Water Department employee Brian Creedon said he had sent a letter to Richard Rondeau, head of the Department of Environmental Protection, South Division in Lakeville, for clarification of the DEP’s position on the Monponsett Pond issue on June 15.
He is still waiting for an answer.
Rep. Calter told the group that he personally brought a petition, signed by 620 residents in 48 hours, to the State House to increase awareness of the problem inaction and wrong action has caused. Calter continued that he and Cutler believe that the DEP has relinquished its authority in the Ponds issue. They should realize that diverting water from West Monponsett Pond is a bad idea.
“The City of Brockton has the right to divert water beginning Oct. 1,” O’Leary said. “It is also their statutory obligation to maintain the ponds, which they have failed to do,” he said.
Creedon told the commissioners that it is his understanding that Brockton has no plan to divert water from Monponsett Oct. 1.
Alex Mansfield, Ecology Program Director of the Jones River Watershed Association, said that the ponds need to be allowed to return to their natural flow to give them the opportunity to clean themselves.
Hayward asked O’Leary why, when she as a gardener has to watch her garden die, the people of Brockton have no water ban? Roy answered that she asked the Brockton Water Commissioners that same question and was told that “Brockton people like to have green grass.”
Calter said that with the lack of conservation on the part of Brockton, there may need to be new legislation to deal with the problem. “Rep. Cutler and I have read the law thoroughly and find it very clear.”
Collis told the group that for the past three years, the Monponsett Watershed Association, the Board of Selectmen and Board of Health for Halifax have been trying to find a resolution to the green water. Out of frustration dealing with the regulatory authority, the DEP, it has been only through the efforts of Calter and Cutler that we now have the legal vehicle to pursue solutions.
Calter told Collis that they are petitioning Gov. Baker, and are in touch with the DEP, seeking to form a collaboration this week at the State House which will put in motion a solution to the problem.
O’Leary told the group of the conference which he attended, even though the Patrick administration withdrew funds for the commission, which dealt in part with the cyanobacteria problem. The lecturer spent some time with O’Leary, and told him that a big problem with reversing the water flow from a contaminated pond is dragging the problem from West Pond to East Pond and into Silver Lake itself. Brockton may well be poisoning its own water source.
DuBois told the group that she would encourage the Commission’s writing a letter of support to investigate Brockton’s entry into the MWRA water system, which goes as far as Stoughton now.
Brockton has clearly outgrown the present protocol of draining Monponsett ponds to quench its thirst.