Swampscott's King's Beach Still Closed 3 Days After Sewage Release
Swampscott's King's Beach Still Closed 3 Days After Sewage Release

Swampscott's King's Beach Still Closed 3 Days After Sewage Release

SWAMPSCOTT, MA —While the direct results of more than 1 million gallons of partially treated and untreated wastewater being released into the shores of King’s Beach via the Stacy’s Brook outflow on Saturday night may have dissipated, the beach remained off-limits to swimming both the Swampscott and Lynn side of the border on Tuesday.

“Although the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) from Lynn onto King’s Beach last Saturday, July 29th, is over and CSO warning signs have been removed, King’s Beach in Swampscott is still closed for swimming due to regular seasonal beach water sampling being elevated,” Swampscott officials posted on the town Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.

In what has become virtually a perpetual theme for the beach — routinely ranked as one of the most polluted beaches in the state based on days safe for swimming by Save the Harbor/Save the Bay — administrators of the Facebook group Save King’s Beach posted on Tuesday that the beach has only been open 14 percent of the days since the start of summer.

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While some members of the group expressed at least some reassurance that both Lynn and Swampscott leaders were being more proactive about notifications regarding beach closures in the wake of the latest sewage outflow out of Lynn, the sheer volume of beach closure days appears to be pushing long-standing frustrations over notifications and the efforts to mitigate the pollution to a tipping point.

The state has launched a new interactive dashboard to inform residents of beach closures and water testing results with King’s Beach listed as the only Swampscott beach off-limits to swimming on Tuesday, while all Lynn beaches were once again closed amid the height of the summer season.

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Beach closures have been frequent throughout the North Shore because of high bacteria levels caused by fecal contamination most often from stormwater runoff in the heavy downpours of June and July. But while many of those closures can be written off the effects of a historically rainy summer, the history of King’s Beach and the — at least perceived by some — lack of urgency in addressing both the root source contamination causes of the problem — as contained in a consent decree with the state Department of Environmental Protection — have brought frustrations to a boil among many advocates.

“I guess it comes down to priorities,” King’s Beach advocate Liz Smith told Patch before the latest Lynn outflow. “For me, it’s doing the things that you are supposed to do. Keeping sewer system functional. Paying the cost that it takes to make that happen.

“It’s a consent decree because they both agreed to it. You have to do these things regardless of whether you get outside funding. This is the responsibility of the town.”

The Swampscott Select Board held a public discussion on the ongoing efforts to clean the waters of King’s Beach and Stacy’s Brook on July 19 with Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald expressing some optimism that there is “positive momentum” behind possible solutions — including a UV light treatment that engineers said could make the beach swimmable more than 90 percent of summer days once implemented.

Fitzgerald said at the public meeting that the capital process of “sleeving” the pipes to reinforce them is ongoing and required through the consent decree, but that the age and complexity of the pipe system make it necessary to have a two-tiered solution to the problem because “we could be in a position where we spend $20 million (on capital reinforcements) and we still couldn’t be able to use that beach.”

He added that while the desire is to fix the problem as quickly and comprehensively as possible, that fix must include state and federal support, and cannot fall all on the backs of Swampscott taxpayers.

“I don’t think we should pay the lion’s share,” he said. “I think we’re a small town that should pay a proportional share.”

(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at Scott.Souza@Patch.com. X/Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)

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