Ask and You Shall Receive:City, Students Celebrate Tree Request on Arbor Day

Ask and You Shall Receive:City, Students Celebrate Tree Request on Arbor Day

When Ayman Souabny looked around his school and his city, he didn’t see much of anything but concrete.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino, Council President Damali Vidot and Supt. Mary Bourque join Wright Middle students Luis Cruz-Martinez,Ayman Souabny, Sherlyn Melgar and Kevin Mizhquiri in front of the school last Friday, Oct. 19, to celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree in front of the school. The planting was a request made by the students, fulfilled by local government.

He, and many of his students at the Wright Middle School, wanted to see trees.

And the City heard their call.

On Friday, the Chelsea Tree Board and City officials joined Souabny and several other key students who called for more trees around the Williams School building to plant a ceremonial tree in honor of Arbor Day.

“In Chelsea we need trees,” said Souabny. “Things keep changing in Chelsea and now we have none left. We need oxygen to breath and trees provide oxygen. So, I thought we should tell them to plant trees around our school…I never thought they would bring them, but they did.”

Tree Board member Julie Shannon said it’s a small gesture, but it’s one that – on Arbor Day – the students will be able to remember for a long time.

“Arbor Day is a chance for us as a community to pay special recognition to the importance of trees in our community,” she said. “I wanted to give a special thanks to the students where they are the reason we are celebrating this year’s Arbor Day at the Williams school. These students understand the numerous benefits and positive impact of more trees and took the initiative to speak up asking for more trees around the school. Well, let today be a testament that you’ve been heard and today is because of you. It’s a great lesson that you do have a voice in this community. Whether it’s getting more trees planted or other areas that need attention, speak up, you can make change happen. You should all be proud of yourselves.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the new trees will be something students can remember for a long time.

“This is a City committed to improving the green canopy in our City,” he said. “For the students, the best thing is these trees will last 50 years or more. When you grow up and are in Chelsea, every time you see these trees, you’ll be able to tell everyone they are there because of your efforts.”

Said Supt. Mary Bourque, “You do have a voice in this community. Whenever you see a place to speak up, you know you will be heard.”

Council President Damali Vidot said many of the comments she gets from students are about the environment.

“The majority of letters I get from young people, probably 95 percent, are about improving the environment,” she said. “I thank you for speaking up and I thank the DPW  for listening to our future leaders – these students.”

Principal Michelle Martiniello said she was proud of the students for getting such a thing done.

“A lot of the time we encourage them to get involved in the community, and this time, it showed great benefits,” she said.

Added Assistant Principal Adam Weldai, “It was great for them to hear local government did listen to them and will do things they ask for.”

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State Officials Seek to Reduce Stormwater Pollution

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), in partnership with the Statewide Stormwater Coalition, announced the launch of a new stormwater awareness campaign to help Massachusetts cities and towns comply with new federal stormwater management requirements. The announcement was made during an event at the Joseph H. Gibbons Elementary School in Stoughton.

“Stormwater runoff threatens the health of all water resources across Massachusetts,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “This unique public education campaign provides important information to residents, businesses and developers about what they can do to reduce these contaminants in our environment and keep our rivers and streams safe from pollution.”

The public awareness campaign, “Think Blue Massachusetts,” is designed to generate awareness among businesses and residents of the effects of stormwater pollution on waterways and wetlands and encourage people to do their part to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff. The campaign was developed by the Statewide Stormwater Coalition with a grant from MassDEP and will help 260 communities in Massachusetts meet new federal requirements for stormwater management. The new permit, called the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit, requires cities and towns to implement a host of stormwater pollution prevention efforts, including public educational activities and outreach to targeted audiences.

“The new campaign is a toolkit to help cities and towns meet the public education and outreach requirements of MS4,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “The material is available online and can be easily downloaded and customized to reflect a community’s individual needs. It provides one-stop shopping for our local officials who are working hard to meet these requirements.”

Stormwater runoff occurs when rain or snow-melt travels along roadways and parking lots and picks up contaminants on its way to local rivers, streams and groundwater sources. Contaminants – such as fertilizer, trash, oils, gasoline, solvents, pollen and pet waste – is washed into catch basins and into our stormwater systems and eventually discharged into the environment. The new requirements in the MS4 permits will reduce the overall amount of stormwater runoff entering our waterbodies.

MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.

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The News About the Environment is All Bad

The News About the Environment is All Bad

For anyone who is concerned about the environment (and that should be all of us), the news recently has been all bad.

Here’s a sampling: A heat wave in Japan sent 10,000 people to the hospital, 30 of whom died; Denver set a record-high temperature in June of 105; and temperatures in Siberia and northern Sweden — in the Arctic — reached 90 degrees, 40 degrees higher than normal.

Then there were the photos of the waves and waves of trash and garbage that are inundating the beaches of the Dominican Republic. Much of it is plastic, which is non-biodegradable. Plastics from our ubiquitous bottles of water and other sources will break down into microsize bits that eventually will be ingested by fish — so there is a good chance that if you are having fish for dinner this week, you are filling your body with plastic.

It should be clear that climate change and the destruction of our environment are occurring at a pace even faster than the scientists have been predicting. As we saw this winter with the unprecedented flooding in the Boston area, we are ill-prepared for the effects of climate change are occurring presently, let alone for the drastic consequences being predicted by the mid-century.

It is not only the future that is bleak — we are facing the disastrous consequences of climate change and environmental degradation today.

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Ban Plastic Bags

Ban Plastic Bags

There are 61 communities in Massachusetts including the City of Boston that have placed a ban on those horrible plastic shopping bags and the City of Revere is poised to become number 62 after Revere City Council members Steve Morabito and Patrick Keefe sponsored a motion that is set for a public hearing on Feb. 26.

When we think of the litter problem in America, the item that is most ubiquitous and that most readily comes to our mind’s eye is the small plastic shopping bag that is at every checkout counter in every store across the country.

They float in our oceans, get stuck in trees and tall grass, or just blow in the wind, the modern-day equivalent of a prairie tumbleweed. There is not a space anywhere that is spared from their unsightliness.

There is no good reason to have them, given the degree of environmental degradation they cause, and we are pleased that communities in Massachusetts are doing the right thing to ban these bags.

The movement to do so, in our view, highlights what we all know: That preserving our environment is necessary from the bottom-up.

We can make a difference, person-by-person and community-by-community, and a plastic bag ban is a big step in that direction.

Maybe, Everett officials should consider being number 63.

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Ribbon Cutting

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Roseann Bongiovanni and long time environmental justice member, David Prusky, cut the green ribbon on the new Chelsea GreenRoots headquarters on Marginal Street during a ceremony last Friday, Sept. 9. GreenRoots, formerly
Chelsea GreenSpace, formally spun off of the Chelsea Collaborative earlier in the summer and will focus more intensely on issues regarding the environment.

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Eversource Energy Teams with Chelsea Schools for Unique Fundraising

One-hundred percent profit for a school holding a fundraiser is practically unheard of—but that’s exactly what students at Chelsea schools will earn when they take part in the Eversource Energy’s Change a Light, Change the World Fundraiser. The campaign teaches students in 1st through 12th grade the importance of energy efficiency while providing schools an opportunity to raise a significant amount of money with no cost to the school.

“We’ve found that when students are taught about energy efficiency at an early age, it forms habits that stay with them for life,” said Bill Stack, Eversource Energy Efficiency Spokesperson. “The Change a Light, Change the World Fundraiser is a win-win–empowering students and bringing much needed money into their schools.”

Eversource donates a wide-range of energy-efficient items such as light bulbs and advanced power strips for students to sell. The participating schools keep 100% of the proceeds and can raise up to $20,000 based upon the number of products sold. Since its inception, this fundraiser has pumped thousands of dollars into local schools with the school deciding how it wants to spend the money raised.

All Chelsea schools are eligible to participate. Schools kick-off the fundraising drive with a presentation, where two Eversource “Secret Agents” visit the school and lead students in an energy efficiency program including a trivia game, skit and Energy Efficiency Pact.

With a commitment to New England and the environment, Eversource continues to partner with local communities to teach students the benefits of making greener choices. Public and private schools in the Eversource service territory are eligible. To find out more about participating in the fundraiser or Eversource’s educational programs, visit Eversourceinschool.com or email Mary McCarthy at mary.mccarthy@eversource.com or eversourcechallenge@eversource.com.

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An Earth Day Appreciation of Our Partners

An Earth Day Appreciation of Our Partners

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day celebration – a day that many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement. More than 20 million people participated in that 1970 celebration and those efforts eventually lead to the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts a few years later.

In 1975, the General Court created the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality Engineering – the precursor of today’s Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) – and built upon a healthy state, community and citizen partnership that still protects our natural resources and the public health.

Over the last 40 years, the state-municipal-citizen partnership has been a key component of our statewide efforts to ensure clean air and water for our citizens, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.

Massachusetts and MassDEP are leaders in many environmental protection efforts, but we would not be able to claim that mantel without the help and cooperation of our partners. And I would especially like to highlight the important work of local officials, frequently volunteers, at the local conservation commission, board of health, drinking water board or sewer commission levels.

Local governmenats really are on the front lines when it comes to environmental protection and the safety of the public health. Local residents may not even think of their municipal officials or the kind of work that they do as important for the environment, but it is quietly happening every day.

For instance, municipalities are often responsible for the public water supply, providing clean and safe drinking water to citizens and operating drinking water treatment facilities. This involves compliance with state and federal safe drinking water standards. There are currently 1,725 public water systems statewide, with 313 water systems providing water to residences and businesses in cities and towns, and another 159 systems that supply well water to individual schools, town buildings and businesses.

Communities often operate sewer systems and wastewater treatment facilities, making sure that wastewater discharges operate in compliance with our laws.

Conservation commissions are responsible for implementing the Wetlands Protection Act. Commissioners make decisions based on consistency with the Act and our wetlands protection regulations, ensuring that development does not come at the expense of our precious natural resources.

Local officials also partner with MassDEP and the Commonwealth to provide comprehensive recycling programs, cleanup and redevelop Brownfields and contaminated land, oversee septic systems, handle nuisance issues, such as noise, odor and dust, dredge municipal harbors and navigational channels, build and repair sewer and drinking water facilities through low-interest loan programs, help reduce energy use in public facilities, and provide expertise in addressing emergency situations during toxic spills or environmental disasters.

The partnership list is long and extensive and these programs and others like them are critical to maintaining a clean environment and the high quality of life expected by every resident in the Commonwealth. I want to thank local officials for their important work in making our shared mission a reality.

I look forward to building on our many years of collaboration, strengthening those community partnerships and promoting increased understanding about how we can work together to ensure continued protection of the environment and the public health.

Martin Suuberg in the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which recently announced the creation of a new Office of Municipal Partnerships and Governmental Affairs

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City Spends $75,000 for Trash Compactors

City Spends $75,000 for Trash Compactors

As the City continues efforts to keep streets clean and to encourage recycling, the newest tool to do so is about to be unveiled.  Beginning as soon as this week, the Chelsea DPW will begin installing BigBelly solar barrels at eighteen locations.

“This is our next step at keeping Chelsea clean and green,” said City Manager Jay Ash.  “Thanks to the Council support and approval, we’re spending $75,000 to make it more convenient for pedestrians to discard their trash and, for the first time, have public options for recycling.  We expect that our streets, especially in the downtown, will be cleaner, and pleased to be improving recycling efforts and reducing the energy we expend in emptying barrels.”

The BigBelly solar system is a combination of a waste and recycling solution.  On the waste end, the barrel is a trash compactor, thus allowing for days and even weeks of trash to be stored in the unit, thereby not requiring a daily pick-up.  That avoidance saves both manpower and energy, and allows the DPW and its contractors to focus on other priority areas.  Although BigBelly also offers a solar compactor for recyclables, the City opted to utilize a standards recycling container, believing the potential usage did not warrant the additional expense of a compactor.  Both the waste and recycling systems have sensors that radio to the DPW how full they are, and, thus, allow for the most efficient utilization of resources to empty them.

“It’s great that we’re rolling out the BigBellys,” said Councillor Calvin Brown.  “We don’t have enough barrels out on the street, and those that we do are often overflowing.  This will solve multiple cleanliness problems for us.”

Each unit costs $4,700.  Officials believe the cost versus placing out a $50 barrel or installing a $300 decorative barrel will be made up for in cleaner streets, reduced manpower costs to clean those streets and empty barrels, and savings related to less gas and equipment needed to empty city barrels now.

“I’m thrilled with the BigBelly system and look forward to both their deployment and use,” said Councillor Brian Hatleberg.  “If we can use smart technology to make our streets cleaner and our environment better, the modest expense should pay for itself.”

Twelve of the units will be deployed in the downtown, with one each going to Central Avenue, Everett Avenue, upper Broadway, Cary Square and Washington Avenue in Prattville.  The 18th is being held back for future deployment.

“We’ve approved the funding because we believe the technology will work.  But for it to reach its maximum, we need residents to take notice and encourage each other to use them.  If they are used, we’d appropriate even more money to place more down in additional locations,” said Council President Dan Cortell.

Big Belly units are already in several parks, including the newly reconstructed Washington Park.

“The units are working well and are well received up there,” advised Councillor Paul Murphy.  “Being able to do this again demonstrates how important cleanliness is to us and how resolved we are to do something about it.”

Ash added that the City’s financial position is also making a difference.

“We’ve got plenty of great ideas, but they almost all cost money.  As we continue to manage our financial situation and bring in development, though, these types of improvements continue to be possible,” concluded Ash.

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