SECTION 1: Chapter 21 of the General Laws is hereby amended by adding after Section 26A the following:
(a) The director shall review reports from wastewater management and sewer district management commissions and agencies along the Merrimack River related to effluent and other agents associated with Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) systems for the years 2012 – 2018 to determine a relationship between known pollutants and effluent in the Merrimack River as related to weather and climate conditions due to CSOs.
(b) This information shall form the foundation for a reliable and uniform system of prenotification to alert communities along the river to potential swimming and boating hazards.
(c) The department of environmental protection shall develop a color-coded system of warning and safety flags to be displayed at public beaches, popular boat launches, and areas along the Merrimack River known to be places of water recreation for people and their pets.
(d) The flag system shall be of standard size, shape, color and definition for the purpose of notifying the public that there may be pollutants in the water.
(e) The director is authorized to establish and operate a program encouraging the display of notification flags and conspicuous signs indicating the meaning of each flag.
(f) In addition to the placement of flags, the department of environmental protection shall develop and implement a reliable system of notification to be publicly posted on its website indicating the daily flag color.
(g) The department of environmental protection shall develop and implement a mobile notification system to which any person can subscribe at no cost the purpose of which is to inform the recipient of the color of the flag each day.
(h) The flagging system is intended to act as a warning of potential danger based on historical and empirical data related to CSOs and is not intended to be a determinant of pollutants related to CSOs in the water.
(i) Due to the inherent changing nature of moving river currents, the flags are intended as a factor for the public to consider prior to entering the river, but shall not be a ban for recreation unless public beaches have been closed by local authorities due to known pollutants.
(j) All costs associated with this section shall be borne by the commonwealth.
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