The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has determined that the shellfish growing areas in Marshfield and Scituate shall be closed to the harvest of shellfish in response to a Rockland sewer discharge event on March 15, 2023 that lasted until March 17, 2023 and released 1.8 million gallons of partially treated effluent. As a result, the status of the North and South River has been changed to “CLOSED TO SHELLFISHING” for 21 days or until further notification is made by the Division of Marine Fisheries. This release of partially treated sewage from Rockland sewer was due to heavy rains. See the letter from DMF here.

The Rockland Treatment plant has been an ongoing problem due to leaky sewer pipes. During significant rainfall rain water infiltrates into the sewer pipes and overwhelms the treatment plant, resulting in a release of partially treated effluent (solids are removed, the water is chlorinated and then is blended with treated effluent) into French’s Stream. French’s Stream flows into Forge Pond, then into the Drinkwater River which flows into the Indian Head River, and eventually flows into the North River…16 miles downstream from the treatment plant. The Marshfield Harbormaster and Shellfish Warden, Mike Dimeo and the NSRWA are working with DMF, DEP and Rockland Sewer to collect samples to better understand the extent of the contamination to the rivers and shellfish from these discharges.

The infiltration and inflow (I/I) and overflow issue in Rockland’s sewer system has been an outstanding concern of the NSRWA for years. In 2006, the NSRWA appealed the town’s National Pollution Discharge Permit (NPDES) Clean Water Act permit that allows Rockland to discharge into French’s Stream over this very same issue. In 2022, 16 years later, a new order to comply with the Clean Water Act was issued by the US EPA. Currently, the town of Rockland is working to resolve these overflow issues and is undergoing a Comprehensive Wastewater Planning process. In the meantime, a sewer hook-up moratorium was instituted again in July 2021. Stay tuned.

These overflows are likely a common occurrence when it rains but this is the first time the public and MassDMF were made aware of it. This is due to a piece of legislation that we helped to pass with our partners in 2021 called the Sewage Notification Act. This new law is working just as we hoped – to alert the public and apparently other state agencies to these infrastructure problems and hold wastewater dischargers accountable for their failing infrastructure.