Celebrate Our Rivers in June

By: Julia Blatt, Executive Director, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance

At long last, a recent weekend presented one of those pristine days that remind us here in Massachusetts why we endure those winters. With warm spring weather finally here, many of us hit the water for the first time this year, visiting local rivers. With more than 10,000 miles of rivers traversing the state, we had many choices. Sail boats blossomed on the Charles. Rowers huffed and puffed on the Mystic. Fishing rods sprouted along the Swift. Bikers and kayakers explored the Sudbury. For many people, the beautiful day meant a chance to spend on, in and around the rivers of Massachusetts.

Fittingly, June is National Rivers Month, a 30-day gala celebrating our waterways. Whether you kayak past important Revolutionary War sites on the Concord River, hike over the Bridge of Flowers on the Deerfield, draw water for local crops from the Connecticut, or depend on drinking water from the Merrimack, National Rivers Month is a time to celebrate the gains we have made in protecting these important public recreational, economic and historic assets.

National Rivers Month, however, is also a time to reflect on what remains to be accomplished. The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, the voice for Massachusetts rivers, is a statewide environmental advocacy non-profit that helps those whose lives are touched by these Massachusetts waterways (and we would argue, that’s all of us). Consider, for example, pending legislation regarding sewage overflows around the state. Very old stormwater and wastewater systems serving municipalities in the state have what are called “combined sewage overflow” (CSO) systems. Through these CSOs, stormwater and wastewater systems are physically interconnected. At times of high precipitation, stormwater run-off goes into the wastewater system and overwhelms the water treatment plants. To prevent these backups, wastewater – the sewage from your homes and businesses – is dumped directly into Massachusetts rivers. Approximately 200 of these CSO connections exist throughout the state. In Massachusetts, an estimated three billion gallons of raw sewage gets dumped into the state’s rivers each year. Swimmers, canoeists, and pets exposed to CSO contaminants are vulnerable to gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, eye or ear infections, skin rashes, hepatitis and other diseases. Children, the elderly, and people with suppressed immune systems are especially vulnerable. Wildlife are also adversely affected by CSO pollutants which lead to higher water temperatures, increased turbidity, toxins and reduced oxygen levels in the water.

Everyone recognizes the problem. But it takes money to fix it, more money than is now available. Over the past two decades, Massachusetts communities have spent more than $1 billion to eliminate CSOs. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, however, that an additional $4.2 billion is needed to finish the job.

In addition to supporting efforts to increase state and federal funding to eliminate CSOs, Mass Rivers is championing a simple sewage notification bill now pending before the Massachusetts legislature. Disturbingly, there is currently no state requirement to notify the public about the presence of sewage in the water when these discharges occur.

The legislation supported by Mass Rivers would require the operator of a CSO to notify local boards of health, in addition to the state Department of Public Health, within two hours after a sewage spill begins. In addition, the public could sign up to receive these notifications, by text, e-mail, phone call or tweet. The state Department of Environmental Protection would be required to centralize all sewage spill data and make it available on the internet. Signage would be required at all public access points (for boating, fishing, beaches) near CSO outfalls as well.

National Rivers Month is a time to shake off those indoor blues and enjoy Massachusetts’

bounty of rivers. Whether you go to look for great blue herons, to fish for trout, to take your family and the dog on an afternoon paddling adventure, or simply to seek calm and quiet, our state’s rivers are there for you. To preserve these friends, and to ensure the safety of those who use our rivers, National Rivers Month should also be a time for towns and cities to insist that our legislators enact a requirement that when the waters are despoiled with sewage spills, we know about it.

Julia Blatt is Executive Director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, the voice of Massachusetts rivers. The Alliance is a statewide organization of 77 environmental organizations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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City Council Honors Community Change-makers at City Hall

City Council Honors Community Change-makers  at City Hall

Around 20 members of the local community gathered at City Hall on Monday, Feb. 25, for the meeting of the Chelsea City Council.

On the agenda for Monday night’s meeting was a ceremony to honor individuals in the Chelsea who have made a difference to their community.

The first to be recognized Dr. Alfred Donatelli, the chair of the Chemical Engineering Department at UMass/Lowell. The City Council chose to honor Dr. Donatelli for “his many contributions in the world of Science and Engineering.”

Dr. Donatelli is a proponent of STEM education, which focuses on educating students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He was featured in the Record earlier in the week for a STEM education demonstration he gave at the Chelsea Public Library.

A group of six individuals were also given the Chelsea Trailblazer 2019 Award: Bruce Mauch, Grace Muwina, Saritin Rizzuto, Lisa Santagate, Record Editor Cary Shuman and Leroy Tyler. In celebration of Black History Month, the annual Chelsea Trailblazer award is bestowed on individuals who have made positive contributions to their local community through demonstrated commitment and service. Shuman was out of town, but the remaining five recipients received awards from City Council and also posed for photos with family and City Council members.

City Council Clerk Paul Casino called award recipients “a beacon of light for all those who want to follow in their footsteps.”

When the floor was opened to members of the public to speak, Joan Cromwell, the President of Chelsea Black Community (CBC), shared her thoughts about Black History Month.

“Black History is not only for Blacks. It’s American history and it’s a part of our history right here in the city,” said Cromwell. “We’re all dealing with the same issues every day, so it’s a shared month that we should all be celebrating together as a community.”

Longtime Chelsea resident Beverly Martin Ross spoke next, adding, “We really appreciate our City Manager as well as our newly appointed [Representative] Ayanna Pressley, who came out to serve the homeless in honor of Black History Month.”

“I just want to give all the praise to the Chelsea Black Community for the work they put in every year creating events all month long,” said City Council President Damali. “There’s a lot of history here in the community that’s rich and I appreciate all the work that goes into keeping the black history alive here in the community. You guys are the real heros.”

A final Black History Month event was hosted on Thursday, February 28, at the Williams Middle School, where keynote speaker Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins honored the Chelsea Trailblazers.

The next City Council meetings will be held at Chelsea City Hall on March 11 and March 25 at 7pm.

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Drug Treatment Center Looks to Strengthen Ties in the Community

Drug Treatment Center Looks to Strengthen Ties in the Community

As part of the Recovery Month activities, the Health Care Resource Center Methadone Clinic on Crescent Avenue

Counselors and staff at the Health Care Resource Center Methadone clinic on Crescent Avenue pause for a picture during their open house last Thursday, Sept. 27, as part of Recovery Month. Directors said they hope to build strong ties with the community and overcome the misconceptions about what they do.

opened its doors on Thursday, Sept. 27, to let residents find out more about what they do.

Victoria Johnson, treatment center director, said they offer a valuable service to patients looking to beat an addiction to opiates and other drugs. Known as medication assisted treatment, Methadone is administered at the Chelsea facility to about 750 patients on a daily basis – and it’s a system that has seen many happy endings.

“One of the biggest things we’re up against is the misconception of what we do and the benefits of medication assisted treatment,” she said. “Also, when people stigmatize the patients, it hurts the community. It’s the biggest fight providers are always up against.”

The clinic has often been seen as a location that Chelsea doesn’t want, and hasn’t been in close connection with the community at times. However, Johnson said they treat many residents of Chelsea and the surrounding communities and they want to forge closer ties. She also said they already work closely with the HUB/COR program and with the Chelsea Police.

During Recover Month, she said she wanted to stress they are part of the solution to this epidemic.

“We have a lot of people who have recovered,” she said, meaning they have weaned themselves off of Methadone. “We try to get them to come back and talk to the counseling groups we run about their success. We want them to share about how life has been when they no longer need to be medicated. We also try to stay in the community and build strong connections. A lot of people don’t know how to get into treatment, and that’s the biggest question we have.”

A typical day at the clinic starts about 5:30 a.m. when the staff arrives and prepares for the first patients to come in at 6 a.m. Those patients are typically those that work or take care of children or elderly family members. Normally, they will take their does and be in and out in about 15 minutes. Dosing continues throughout the morning until 11 a.m.

Anyone using the treatment also has to come in for a counseling component two hours per month, and 15 counselors are on hand to run group counseling for a variety of types.

Most of the patients pay for the service with MassHealth, and some insurances like Blue Cross/Blue Shield pay for the treatment as well.

Typically, Johnson said, patients will come in and stabilize using the Methadone treatment. That takes about two weeks to two months.

She also said they have very strict policies on loitering outside the clinic. She said if they find patients loitering or causing issues outside, they will call the police. Any problems with law enforcement can cause the patient to be removed from treatment.

“They’re not causing those problems here,” she said. “I always say to people, if they see it, call the police. Our goal is to get people into treatment, stabilize them, and set them up for success.”

Cutline –

Counselors and staff at the Health Care Resource Center Methadone clinic on Crescent Avenue pause for a picture during their open house last Thursday, Sept. 27, as part of Recovery Month. Directors said they hope to build strong ties with the community and overcome the misconceptions about what they do.

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Latimer Society to Celebrate Locally, To Be Honored in Connecticut

Latimer Society to Celebrate Locally, To Be Honored in Connecticut

Leo and Ron Robinson are shown at the Chelsea Public Library in the Lewis Latimer Museum last week after announcing that they will hold a local remembrance of the famed inventor on April 9, and then will travel to Connecticut on April 11 to accept an award for their work in STEM.

Leo and Ron Robinson are shown at the Chelsea Public Library in the Lewis Latimer Museum last week after announcing
that they will hold a local remembrance of the famed inventor on April 9, and then will travel to Connecticut
on April 11 to accept an award for their work in STEM.

The Lewis Latimer Society of Chelsea will be holding a local commemoration of National Engineers Month this coming week at the Chelsea Public Library, and then taking that show on the road to Connecticut, where an organization there will honor the Chelsea group for its work with kids and its groundbreaking research into the prominent, African American inventor.

The first event will take place on Thursday, April 9 at the Library from 4-7 p.m. and is titled ‘Recognizing a Hometown Hero: Lewis Howard Quincy Latimer.’ Latimer was born in Chelsea and was a prominent inventor working for folks such as Thomas Edison. He was the inventor of the carbon filament used in the lightbulb, among many other things.

Leo and Ron Robinson – who head up the Chelsea society – said they are holding the local celebration to highlight National Engineers Month and to remind everyone in Chelsea about the contribution of its hometown “hero.”

The local celebration will give way to an awards ceremony in Trumbull, CT where the Juneteenth of Fairfield County organization will hold a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) gala.

The black-tie affair will feature an appearance by Hugh Price, the great grand nephew of Latimer and also the former president of the National Urban League.

In conjunction with his presentation will be an award ceremony on April 11 honoring the Chelsea society’s historic work and STEM work.

“We hope that Thursday will be a time to celebrate the Lewis Latimer society and a time to celebrate of a man from Chelsea who was a prominent inventor and engineer,” said Ron Robinson. “This is a man whose inventions still have an effect on the lives of many people worldwide. We plan to recognize that, in particular the carbon filament. At the same time, we’ll be going to Connecticut to accept an award for working with kids in STEM…This award recognizes our activities with STEM that we’ve done.”

Leo Robinson said a big part of the celebration of Latimer in Connecticut is that many down there have just realized that Latimer lived and worked in the area.

“It’s going to be a big weekend down there on Lewis Latimer,” he said. “They’re naming a street after him. He did live in Bridgeport and he had a few inventions patented when he was there…This is big and a huge honor. You don’t get a lot of honors, but you really don’t do it for the honors. They’re just now realizing that Lewis Latimer lived there and just how important he was. We hope to be able to share what we’ve learned with them.”

The Robinsons were in a similar boat as those in Fairfield County back in 1996.

They said they had always worked with kids, trying to keep them in school and trying to stress the importance of academics. In the course of that, they were looking for a black man from Chelsea that they could point to as successful in the area of mathematics and engineering.

“We wanted a role model who was from Chelsea for when we worked with the kids,” Ron said. “We wanted to be able to point to someone who had accomplished something great so that we could keep kids in high school. We also wanted to stress black history with the youth as well. We had some descendants of Latimer at that time still living in Chelsea. They relayed the story to us. Little did we know, when we began looking into the man, that he was so prominent and there were all these societies dedicated to his work. They all wanted to know more about the man and his beginnings in Chelsea. Yet, we had nothing at the time recognizing that he was even from here.”

Cobbling together science materials and introducing young people to the every-day science around the City, the Robinsons put together a program that taught about the history of Latimer – even visiting the sites where he lived – and stressed the importance of his inventions.

“A big thing we had was we took kids to college campuses to speak to them,” he said. “They hd to understand that to get there, to get to a place like Latimer got in his career, they had to open their books. They had to study to have a better future. Many of the kids had never talked about college until they experienced the campus on a visit. They would often come home and talk to their parents for the first time about their plans to attend college.”

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CBC Hosts Black History Month Celebration Feb. 26:President Joan Cromwell Invites Residents to Attend Free Event at Chelsea High

CBC Hosts Black History Month Celebration Feb. 26:President Joan Cromwell Invites Residents to Attend Free Event at Chelsea High

Joan Cromwell, president of the Chelsea Black Community, is part of the planning committee for its Black History Month celebration event Feb. 26 at Chelsea High School.

Joan Cromwell, president of the Chelsea Black Community,
is part of the planning committee for its Black History Month celebration event Feb. 26 at Chelsea High School.

Chelsea Black Community (CBC) president Joan Cromwell hopes to make the organization’s upcoming Black History Month event fun, festive and educational.

“For the second year, we’re having a community Black History Month celebration,” said Crowmell, whose family [Smith-Cromwell] history in Chelsea dates back more than a century.

The event, which has a theme of “A Community of Unity,” will be held on Feb. 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Chelsea High School. The large turnout at the first celebration at the Chelsea Public Library necessitated CBC to find a larger venue.

“We plan to have a lot of things going on – video slide shows honoring people of Chelsea, a multi-cultural fashion show with students modeling their nation’s clothing, youth and adult speakers, local artists, jewelry and perfume vendors, arts and crafts, Henna tattooing and food.”

The REACH dancers will perform at the speaking program that will begin at 7 p.m.

The CBC event planning committee includes: Henry Wilson, Shirley Thompson, Debra Washington, Paula Cromwell, Beverly Martin, Councilor-at-Large Calvin Brown, Dakeya Christmas, and Michael Mason.

City Council President Leo Robinson, the Rev. Sandra Whitley, and BHCC Associate Dean Sharon Caulfield are among the dignitaries who are expected to attend the celebration.

“The Chelsea community has changed a lot in the past 20-30 years,” said Cromwell. “The population has grown and we want to make sure that everyone is included in this celebration.”

The event is free of charge. There will be raffle drawings.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Cromwell.”’

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Chelsea Black Community Organizes First Event, Celebrates Black History Month

Chelsea Black Community Organizes First Event, Celebrates Black History Month

Chelsea Black Community Vice President Joan Cromwell (left) and President Michael Mason speak to the crowd in honor of Black History Month last Thursday evening at the Chelsea Public Library.

Chelsea Black Community Vice President Joan Cromwell
(left) and President Michael Mason speak to the crowd in
honor of Black History Month last Thursday evening at the
Chelsea Public Library.

The Chelsea Black Community (CBC) organization came together last Thursday night to celebrate Black History Month and to also memorialize its first public event.

The celebration took place at the Chelsea Public Library.

“This is the first year that we’ve come out to the community with an event and it’s only our second year in existence,” said CBC President Michael Mason. “We have a lot of energetic and enthusiastic minds who want to do great things for the community.”

Joan Cromwell, the vice president of CBC, said she is a life-long resident of Chelsea and noted that her grandmother would have been proud to see so many people recognizing Black History Month together in Chelsea.

“Chelsea Black Community is kind of the new kid on the block,” she said. “We’re introducing ourselves here as well as celebrating Black History Month…Things are changing and we have so many new faces coming to Chelsea. We have people from Africa and Haiti and from all continents. The world is smaller. We have different ethnicities, but one coming together as a community…We’re about connecting people to resources, networking, socializing and just respecting each other. That’s what we’re all about.”

The motto of the organization is ‘One Strong Voice’ and they will begin meeting the last Thursday of every month.

The organization is open to those 21 and over who live, work or own businesses in Chelsea.

The director of public relations is Deborah Washington.

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