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New survey seeks to understand public health concerns about Merrimack River

The Merrimack River Watershed Council is conducting a survey in partnership with the Boston University School of Public Health to better understand the public’s view of health and pollution concerns along the Merrimack River.

The Council says the survey could help guide their efforts to improve the health and cleanliness of the Merrimack River.

The river is a source of drinking water for more than 500,000 people, and the EPA says that number is projected to increase. It has also become more popular for recreational activities, according to the Merrimack River Watershed Council, with swimmers, fishing, and boaters enjoying the waters.

John Macone, policy and education specialist at the Council, says the survey could help state legislators and federal lawmakers understand who is using the river and how they’re using it.

“What we’re trying to do is find out what people are doing, where they’re doing it, how often they’re going into the river, and what they’re concerned about, so we can take that information and start to look at where public policy can help,” Macone said.

The Merrimack River Watershed Council says the river is cleaner than it was 50 years ago, but still faces pollution issues.

Many of those issues stem from sewage overflows. When storms or snowmelt overwhelm sewer systems near the Merrimack, including in Manchester and Nashua, raw sewage including untreated human waste can flow into the river.

The Council is hoping this survey could help them with a push to bring more money to communities looking to fix sewers that dump into the Merrimack.

Macone said in an email to NHPR that the Merrimack River Watershed Council is focused on outreach efforts in the environmental justice communities of Manchester and Lowell. Many communities in the Merrimack River watershed are environmental justice communities, including low-income communities and communities of color, which could be disproportionately impacted by environmental issues.

Those interested in taking the survey can find it at

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.

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