AROUND THE VALLEY
Lowell General Opening Mass Vaccination Program
On Monday, Feb. 8, Lowell General Hospital will shift its COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Program (MVP) to Cross River Center, at 1001 Pawtucket Blvd. East. This is part of the hospital’s effort to expand vaccinations of individuals included in Phase 1 of the state’s vaccination guidelines as well as those 75 and over.
To accommodate the area’s 75-and-over population, scheduling will initially be coordinated through Circle Health-affiliated primary care practices and is not yet available to the general public. Lowell General will provide updates on publicly available scheduling as soon as they are available.
Lowell General leaders expect the Lowell General MVP will vaccinate approximately 400 people per day to begin, with the ability to quickly scale up to 1,000 per day in the coming weeks and expand further as access to the vaccine increases.
Trahan, Moulton, Kuster, Pappas Request Stronger Investments in Merrimack River Clean-Up
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan along with Representatives Seth Moulton, Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas authored a letter requesting additional federal funding to support clean-up efforts along the Merrimack River. The letter was sent to House Appropriators leading negotiations on funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program, also known as “Section 221.”
“In 2018, 800 million gallons of sewage and untreated stormwater were released into the river, which runs more than 100 miles from central New Hampshire, through northeastern Massachusetts, and then out to sea,” the lawmakers wrote. “Combined sewer overflow discharges in Manchester and Lowell accounted for more than half of the volume. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund has been a useful tool to make improvements to the region’s wastewater infrastructure. However, the scale of need to protect the Merrimack and the communities in its watershed requires a major investment of federal grant support.”
For the third year in a row, the representatives are requesting that additional funds be allocated to combat the issue of combined sewer overflows that, according to the Merrimack River Watershed Council, release an average of 550 million gallons of wastewater into the Merrimack River each year.
Click here to view the full letter.
DiZoglio Bill Calls for a COVID-19 Pre-Registration System in Massachusetts
Under a new bill filed by state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, the commonwealth of Massachusetts would be required to provide for pre-registration regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
Senate Docket 709, an Act relative to COVID-19 vaccination preregistration, tasks the state’s Department of Public Health with establishing a centralized system for residents to pre-register. Vaccines would be distributed to persons based on which phase they fall under.
DiZoglio’s bill comes on the heels of rampant frustration among Massachusetts residents with the state’s rollout of the vaccine, in particular the Commonwealth’s vaccine website, which has left many spending hours in search of an appointment, only to hit a dead end.
Should the bill be signed into law, it will join several U.S. states, including Florida, New Jersey and West Virginia, that have produced a vaccine pre-registration tool for residents to utilize. Moreover, several municipalities in Massachusetts, including the towns of Cohasset and Hingham, have proceeded with similar pre-registration systems at the local level.
GLCF Receives $50K Grant from the Theodore Edson Parker Foundation for Lowell COVID-19 Support
The Greater Lowell Community Foundation (GLCF) has received a $50,000 grant from the Theodore Edson Parker Foundation. The grant will support the GLCF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, specifically to be distributed to nonprofits serving Lowell’s vulnerable populations.
The Theodore Edson Parker Foundation was established in 1944 under the will of Theodore Edson Parker of Lowell. The Parker Foundation’s primary goal is to make effective grants that benefit the city of Lowell and its residents. Grants are made for various purposes, including social services, cultural programs, community development activities, education, community health needs, and urban environmental projects.
Fabrizia Spirits Nearly Doubles Facility Space to Accommodate Growing Demand and New Product Lines
Fabrizia Spirits, the leading limoncello producer in the U.S., has nearly doubled the size of its facility to increase efficiency and accommodate its growing product demand and expanding array of products.
The expansion also makes room for the 500,000 Sicilian lemons Fabrizia imports each year as a key ingredient in its limoncello, canned cocktails, lemon-scented hand sanitizer and the new Fabrizia Lemon Baking Company. Since taking residence in Salem, N.H., in 2009, the company has steadily increased its space within the existing building, growing to the current 11,000 square feet.
In November 2020, Fabrizia Spirits launched Fabrizia Lemon Baking Company, offering Limoncello baked goods made with family recipes utilizing Fabrizia Spirits’ own limoncello. Currently, the Fabrizia Lemon Baking Company bakes fresh Limoncello cookies, whoopie pies, biscotti and blondies, donating one percent of all sales to Feeding America, which provides meals to more than 200 food banks across the country.
The expanded facility also plays a role in Fabrizia Spirits’ lemon processing. Fabrizia imports roughly 500,000 Sicilian lemons each year from a family farm in Italy and the additional space allows the company to store the fresh lemons entirely within its facility. This year’s first shipment arrived at the end of January and the company has begun the lemon-peeling process, from which the lemon zest is used in all products from limoncello, to canned cocktails, to hand sanitizer and to its baked goods.
Collision North Opens On Amesbury’s Elm Street
In Sept. 2020, a surprise local opportunity allowed John DeSimone, a collision technician of 25 years, to open up his own shop, Collision North in Amesbury, Mass. DeSimone tapped into the knowledge, skills, and passions he had developed while working for family-owned shops, including the last eleven years for a family business out of both Salem and Middleton, Mass. Collision North consists of a professional team of four technicians who work on both domestic and foreign vehicles. Utilizing a quality-orientated production-based repair process, the Collision North team has adopted a standard of returning cars to their pre-accident condition.
Lupoli Companies Begins Pre-Leasing Final Phase of Riverwalk Lofts
Lupoli Companies has begun pre-leasing the final phase of Riverwalk Lofts, a luxury loft community located in Lawrence, Mass., on the North Andover line. The final phase will feature 338 brand new loft apartments, which completes the Riverwalk Lofts community, bringing the total number of units in the community to almost 600.
Situated on the west side of the sprawling 50-acre Riverwalk Innovation District, Riverwalk Lofts blends modern design with a historic setting. The final phase of units will feature 16-foot ceilings, 12-foot windows, exposed brick, quartz countertops, hardwood floors, custom cabinetry and spacious second floor mezzanine lofts. The community will offer many amenities including two fitness centers, a wine and coffee bar, game room, semi-private work areas, conference rooms, private dining areas for entertaining, covered parking, rooftop patio and grilling area, and more.
This summer, Lupoli Companies plans to open The Pavilion at Riverwalk, featuring a 1,250-car parking garage, cafes and retail stores, an upscale restaurant and function facility, office space and a regulation sized football field and track on the roof. Residents of Riverwalk Lofts will be able to walk from their home across a connector bridge bringing them right to The Pavilion.
Wanted: Entrepreneurs for M2D2 $200K Challenge
The Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center is seeking entrepreneurs to enter its M2D2 $200K Challenge. The pitch competition is celebrating its 10th year advancing the innovative ideas of early-stage medical device, diagnostic and biotech companies.
M2D2 assists entrepreneurs in those sectors with all aspects of moving new products and technologies from concept to commercialization in order to improve health outcomes. A joint venture of UMass Lowell (UML) and UMass Medical School in Worcester, M2D2 offers the resources of these institutions to entrepreneurs seeking medical assistance with clinical trials and expertise with the engineering and business side of product development.
The contest’s 15 finalists will present their inventions via teleconference before a panel of expert judges in the medical-device, biotech and venture capital sectors on Wednesday, March 24. The winners, to be announced in April, will share in a $200,000 purse of sponsor-provided in-kind assistance including lab and office space, engineering, product development, legal, regulatory, clinical and business services.
Entrepreneurs interested in applying to compete in the challenge may do so by clicking here. The entry deadline is Monday, Feb. 15.
YWCA Northeastern Massachusetts 38th Annual Tribute to Women
Since 1983, the YWCA Northeastern Massachusetts’ Tribute to Women has recognized over 1200 local women leaders from business and community organizations. A hallmark of the tribute is that women honored come from all walks of life; their contributions are varied, and all are remarkable in their own unique way. This year, YWCA Northeastern Massachusetts is seeking nominations of women who have made a difference in their work and community. Nominations will be accepted through March 1 visit the YWCA website here. The Tribute to Women luncheon takes place virtually on May 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Campbell’s Bill to Alert the Public of Sewage Overflows Becomes Law
Gov. Baker has signed a bill into law that will require public notification when untreated sewage overflows into one of the state’s waterways. Lead sponsors Rep. Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen), Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), and Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville) say the legislation is urgently needed to protect residents from unknowingly coming into contact with contaminated waters when swimming or boating. House co-sponsors of the legislation from the Merrimack Valley include Reps. Frank Moran (D-Lawrence), Andy Vargas (D-Haverhill), Christina Minicucci (D-North Andover), Lenny Mirra (R-West Newbury), and James Kelcourse (R-Amesbury). The legislation was also strongly supported by mayors in the Merrimack Valley.
The new law will require sewage system operators to issue a public advisory within 2 hours of a sewage discharge and every 8 hours thereafter until the discharge has ended. A final advisory will be required within 2 hours of the conclusion of the discharge. The advisories will be made available online; sent via email or text message to subscribed members of the public; submitted to the 2 largest local news organizations; and distributed to the local board of health, all affected municipalities, the state Department of Public Health, and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The law has been worked on for over 6 years and has been a priority for state legislators, local officials, and environmental advocates, who cite its urgency to protect both public health and the well-being of the environment. It was formally endorsed by more than 80 bipartisan state legislators, over 140 local officials from communities statewide, and 46 leading state environmental organizations.
“With a COVID-19 connection to sewage, this legislation becomes more critical to preserve public health,” said Campbell. “Many citizens have fought for this for years — and they will now be able to receive individual notification of sewage spills. State government has a responsibility to ensure that our residents and local leaders are notified of public health concerns. This legislation also has a huge economic component. Our waterways in Massachusetts are treasured by all, and we all want to be able to enjoy and respect these treasures. Their viability is critical to local economies. Our next battle will be to upgrade our sewage treatment facilities to prevent CSOs.”
“The Merrimack River is one of the most endangered in the U.S. and I’m so glad we’ve finally pushed this bill across the finish line,” said Rep. Andy Vargas. “This bill takes common sense steps to preserve this treasure for future generations, and I thank Rep. Dean Campbell for her strong leadership in this endeavor.”
“The Merrimack River is an integral part of our natural and built ecosystem,” said Rep. Christina Minicucci. “It’s our job to do whatever it takes to protect it, to ensure the continued health of our residents and our economy as a whole.”
“Governor Baker signing the CSO Bill is great news for Amesbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury,” said Rep. James Kelcourse. “Protecting our waterways from the environmental damage caused by Combined Sewer Overflows is an issue I have been very passionate about for a long time. After numerous in-person and virtual meetings with EPA officials, my fellow legislators and I have been able to raise awareness of this serious problem. This legislation will ensure the public is kept fully informed and safe from untreated sewage discharges when it is time to get back out on the water again.”
Sewage discharges often occur during heavy storms in communities whose wastewater and storm water drainage systems are combined. When storm water floods the system, overflow channels carry excess rain and sewage directly into nearby waterways. The resulting discharges, known as combined sewer overflows or CSOs, carry harmful pathogens such as fecal coliform and bacteria that can cause dysentery, hepatitis, and other gastrointestinal diseases. CSOs also cause algae blooms, which can be toxic to people and deprive water bodies of oxygen, killing marine life. For residents who use the river for boating and swimming, the risk of exposure is particularly high. Recent research also suggests that sewage discharges may be a source of exposure to COVID-19, making timely public notification all the more critical.
Under previous state law, publicly regulated sewage treatment systems were required to notify the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) of a sewage discharge immediately after it occurs, but no later than 24 hours. Exactly who was notified after that varied depending on state and federal permits, but residents and local public officials very rarely made the notification list. This made it difficult for residents to make informed decisions to protect themselves and their families from exposure to harmful pathogens.
Massachusetts currently discharges the most sewage of any state in New England. In 2018, outfalls along the state’s major rivers and waterbodies discharged an estimated 3.4 billion gallons of sewage. According to DEP, five sewage treatment systems along the 117-mile Merrimack River reported hundreds of discharges totaling more than 800 million gallons. As climate change increases the frequency of severe storms in coming years, these figures may climb.
In addition to requiring public advisories, the new law will direct sewage system operators to work with DEP to install metering equipment to detect and measure discharges. The law will also allow DEP to require that operators install signage at outfall locations and public access points to waterways, such as boat ramps and swimming areas, to inform the public of the health risks of CSOs and provide instructions on how to subscribe for the advisories.
Other provisions of the law will require DEP to publish sewage discharge information on its website, issue an annual public report on sewage discharge activity, and work with the state Department of Public Health to establish standards for when local boards of health must issue public warnings related to sewage discharges, for example by using reverse 911 emergency calls.
Passage of the law was made possible by the continued support and advocacy of statewide environmental organizations, led by the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. Environmental groups repeatedly lobbied House and Senate leadership to pass the legislation in the name of environmental protection and public health.
Check out the latest episode of The 495 Podcast!
Sex. Weed. Revolution. Grilled tuna. Richard Ravin joins us on this week’s episode of The 495 podcast to discuss his wild debut novel, “Nothing to Declare.” Listen to the podcast here.