As sea levels rise, city may find stormwater has nowhere to go

Jun 25, 2021

Even the experts agree: No one wants to think about the sewer system. “Most people, all they care about is you flush the toilet, it goes away. You do the sink, it goes away. The water comes out, the water turns off. It rains, the water goes away. As long as it’s gone, nobody thinks about the pipes and the maintenance and all that stuff,” said Charlie Jewell, director of planning at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC).

But Jewell thinks about this stuff. A lot. So does everyone at the commission, the city department that ensures clean water comes out of the faucet, wastewater goes to a treatment plant, and rainwater doesn’t flood your street.

For the most part, Boston’s sewer infrastructure works pretty well. But as climate change causes sea levels to rise and brings more intense storms with a lot of rain, the stormwater system is going to be in trouble. The labyrinth of underground pipes that collects rainwater from catch basins on the street and conveys it to rivers or Boston Harbor isn’t equipped to handle the amount of rain experts say is coming our way.

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