Solar Panel Requirement for New Buildings Supported by Council Subcommittee

New developments in Watertown would have to put up a solar energy system if the zoning amendment heard by a Town Council subcommittee is adopted by the full Town Council. Watertown would become the first community in Massachusetts to require solar energy systems on new developments, Ed Lewis, the Town’s Energy Manager, told the Economic Development and Planning Committee Tuesday night. Other communities and the state has come up with proposed ordinances, but none has enacted them, Lewis said. Town Councilor Vincent Piccirilli said it is nice to be leading the way. “I’m excited to be the first in the state to require solar on buildings,” Piccirilli said.

Teens Spending the Summer Mapping & Indentifying Watertown’s Street Trees

A group of about a dozen teens from Watertown will fan out around town this summer to find out where the street trees are, and where they could be planted. The Teens for Trees program started last summer, when half a dozen students learned about trees, met with experts and combed the streets of Watertown to find trees in need of help. This year the students will be more focused, said program coordinator David Meshoulam, who said the teens will be mapping street trees in Watertown to create an inventory. “There were 4,000-5,000 trees when the last inventory was done in 2008,” Meshoulam said. “A lot has happened since that time: a lot of development, a lot of trees have been taken down and a lot have been planted.”

OP-ED: State Senate Passes Energy Bill Aimed at Addressing Climate Change

{The following piece was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger (D – Belmont) who also represents Watertown}

After a long day of debate, the Senate passed the Barrett-Pacheco omnibus energy bill on Thursday — significant legislation to continue movement in Massachusetts towards a cleaner energy future. Addressing climate change is a core priority for me and I am glad to move this legislation forward. The next step will be action by the House of Representatives.   After that, the branches will need to reconcile their differences and get the bill to the Governor’s desk.  We should expect the bill to continue to evolve. As mentioned in a previous post, I am most enthusiastic about the provisions that will lead to carbon pricing in the transportation sector. A summary of the major provisions appears below, excerpted from the Senate press release on the bill:

Increasing the percentage of Class I renewable energy that must be purchased by retail electric suppliers under the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard from an additional 1% annually to an additional 3% annually. Requiring the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to establish market-based compliance mechanisms to maximize the ability of the Commonwealth to achieve its greenhouse gas emission limits for: (i) the transportation sector not later than December 31, 2020; (ii) the commercial and industrial building sectors not later than December 31, 2021; and (iii) the residential building sector not later than December 31, 2022.

Public Works Encourages Residents to Report Spills in the Charles River

{The following piece was provided by Town Engineer Matthew Shuman from the Watertown Department of Public Works}
We appreciate our citizens on the look-out for potential sources of pollution in the Charles River, and it’s unfortunate that this resident had a difficult time contacting someone after hours. I’m not sure about the particulars in this instance, but we do receive calls after hours using an answering service. Furthermore, we are staffed 24-7 for emergencies. Also, all our storm drains that enter the Charles River (“outfalls”) have signs and a number attached to them (see the photo). It’s helpful when reporting potential pollution to include the outfall number as well, as this can help us with follow-up investigations.

Strange Substance Seen Flowing into Charles River from Storm Drains

A Watertown resident caught on video a strange looking substance flowing out of storm drains into the Charles River on June 2. He could not identify what it was and was frustrated by efforts to report the outflow. 

The resident, David, lives near the Charles River and spotted the floating, beige or yellowish substance in the water Saturday afternoon. See video below. “It was a dark color and was floating on the surface of the water,” David said. The substance was coming out of two of the storm drain pipes and going the water.

OP-ED: How Will Climate Change Impact Transportation in Massachusetts?

The following piece was submitted by State Sen. Will Brownsberger (D – Belmont) who represents Watertown:

I spent Wednesday morning at a Rappapport Institute forum on climate change and transportation infrastructure. When I think about the local impacts of climate change, what I worry about most is water — flooding due to sea level rise. Increased precipitation is also an issue, but for the coastal region that I represent, the big issue is sea level rise. The areas I serve are sheltered from direct coastal flooding and do not face immediate inundation risks, but every legislator has to be concerned about the vulnerabilities of the transportation system that the region depends on. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has lead the region’s efforts to understand climate change — making the initial investment in the Boston Harbor Flood Risk Model to better understand the risks to the central artery and harbor tunnels.

Watertown Group Removes Trash, Debris During Charles River Cleanup

A group from the Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice made the Charles River a nicer place by removing all sorts of items from the waterway during the Charles River Cleanup on Saturday, April 28. The group removed garbage, debris and much more from the shore of the Charles River in Watertown near the Stop & Shop on Pleasant Street. “We had a great turnout,” said Sue Ellen Hershman-Tcherepin, president of Watertown Citizens. She added, “It is both one of the most depressing and one of the most exhilarating activities that brings our community together!” The group was one of dozens participating in the Charles River Cleanup on Saturday.

Watertown Group Showing Movie on Plastic Straws, Environmental Fair

A Watertown citizens group announced it will host the showing of the Movie Straws, by Linda Booker and narrated by Tim Robbins. The group sent out the following information:

ReThink Plastic and The Watertown Public Library will co-sponsor a screening of the film, STRAWS, on Tuesday, May 15, at 7pm, in the Watertown Savings Bank Room at the Watertown Free Public Library. This film is great for all ages and even features some youth activists. The 33-minute film will be followed by an environmental fair with information about reducing plastic pollution in our lives and reducing the use of plastic straws in particular.