Westford, Mass. Town Engineer Paul M. Starratt spoke to an overflow crowd of citizens at a local public library recently to discuss the importance of local cities and towns being "green." His words were meant for Westford, Mass. residents but his philosophy about environmental issues applies to people living in cities and towns across America.
Starratt's talk was sponsored by the local League of Women Voters (LWV) in part, to let citizens know more about local environmental issues, federal environmental regulations and how they can affect citizens.
Paul Starratt referred to himself as a “born again environmentalist” but told the crowd that one need not be a “tree hugger” to care about the environment.
Surrounded by easels displaying graphs, maps and charts, the tall, congenial civil engineer told the group that the job of civil engineers like himself is to be stewards for cities and towns.
The goal of the Department of Engineering in Westford, Mass, is to "discover and identify infrastructure deficiencies that cause hardship, inconvenience or expense to the town and its inhabitants," and to come up with good solutions that resolve or prevent those problems, as the town's website states.
Starrat cut right to the chase, leading a lively discussion about how federal environmental laws impact Westford and other cities and towns. For example, he said that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates that towns have permits to discharge water “whether from an ocean or a puddle."
This is especially important in small rural towns like Westford that are “ground water" communities whose drinking water comes from acquifers or wells. In situations such as this, it is easy for people to inadvertently become environmental polluters.
Cities and twins across the country must comply with the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations, which were established in 1972 as amendments to The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, said Starratt.
The CWA mandates that town by laws protect natural habitats by prohibiting “increased and contaminated storm water runoff associated with developed land."
Such contaminants can pollute drinking water supplies, impair water quality in lakes, ponds and rivers, destroy acquatic and wildlife habitats and flood or clog town drainage systems," according to CWA regulations.
Anyone who has ever experienced water polution problems knows that it is not a pretty sight or a good experience. Though Starratt spoke about federal and local laws and regulations, he also stressed that there is a lot that citizens can do to protect the local environment.
One example is as simple as environmentally friendly lawn care. Strarrat said that citizens can help keep water clean by adopting organic law care practices. He urged the group to avoid lawn care products that contain nitrates and phosphates, saying that the “thousands and thousands of gallons of these chemical being pumped into peoples’ lawns bother me” because the pollutants find their way into the town water supply.
Background about Westford, Mass
Westford, Mass was incorporated on September 23, 1729. It is a beautiful old New England town about a one hour drive northwest of Boston and located west of Lowell, Mass. and north of Concord, Mass.
A bucolic small town with rolling hills, lakes, and apple orchards, Westford was once known noted for its farms and woolen mills, according to the town website. However, these days, this lovely small town is mostly a bedroom community with an emphasis on high tech and a mini construction boom.
Though the environmental issues facing Westford, Mass are certainly not identical to those of other cities and towns, Westford's aproach to meeting its environmental challenges is a good model for town and citizen cooperation and involvement.
For more information about Westford, Mass visit the town website
For more information about federal environmental issues, visit the EPA website