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Some Massachusetts river enthusiasts were concerned about the amount of rainwater runoff that goes into the big sewage-treatment plant on Boston’s Deer Island and then out to sea. So they came up with a different concept.

Jon Chesto reports at the Boston Globe, “The massive Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant was once hailed as an environmental victory, one that would revive a then-defiled Boston Harbor while processing sewage for more than 40 cities and towns. But roughly 15 years after the plant’s completion, one local group still isn’t ready to celebrate.

“The Charles River Watershed Association has instead proposed an unusual alternative to the hulking plant: smaller, neighborhood treatment centers that would convert waste water and discarded food into energy. That energy would then be sold to help defray the cost of the projects.

“The nonprofit group’s primary aim in developing the concept was to limit the vast amounts of rainwater and ground water that get sucked into sewer pipes to be washed out to sea via Deer Island, a phenomenon that is harming the Charles River by decreasing its water volume. …

“These plants would first need to attract customers. Some of their business would come from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, which would redirect some of its waste water to the facilities to be processed. More income would come from a food processing business that would rely on large customers such as colleges, hospitals, and big restaurants to ship discarded food to the facilities.

“Like the waste-water residue, the food trash can be placed in an anaerobic digester system that breaks down the organic material and converts it to methane gas to generate electricity. That power could reduce a facility’s operating costs and be sold into the region’s grid. The remnants could be converted into fertilizers.

“ ‘We’re throwing away a lot of potential revenue as if it were waste, as if it were a bad thing,’ [Charles River Watershed executive director Bob] Zimmerman said. ‘It’s only waste water if you waste it.’ ”

More here.

Infographic: David Butler/Globe Staff
Source: Charles River Watershed Association

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In last week’s Boston Globe, Bella English had a sad-happy story about a nonprofit that reaches out to families impoverished by their children’s cancer, Family Reach Foundation.

English writes that Carla Tardif once promised a friend who died of cancer that she would help families who were struggling with a child’s treatment. In searching for the best way to do that, she ended up at Family Reach, which helps families get back on their feet. The stories she hears are heartbreaking.

“ ‘On top of watching your child suffer, people get threatening eviction notices, calls from collection agencies, or they can’t make a car payment so they lose the car and can’t get their child to treatment,’ says Tardif.

“Medical hardship is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy in the nation,” writes the Globe‘s English. “According to a Harvard University study, more than 62 percent of bankruptcies are caused by overwhelming medical expenses — and cancer is the most costly. ‘It’s because a parent needs to stop working to take care of the child,’ says Tardif. ‘The average cancer treatment without complications is two years.’ …

“ ‘What I’ve learned is that it’s about so much more than money,’ Tardif says [of her work]. ‘That someone cares and gets it, has a really profound effect on families.’

“Just ask Raquel Rohlfing, who at fund-raisers tells her story. Homeless, with a son [Mikalo] who had undergone a bone marrow transplant, she got a call from Tardif, who arranged payment for a year’s rent on a Winchester apartment, not far from her own house.”

In Rohlfing’s case, Tardif really went the extra mile.

English writes, “Tardif’s husband, a builder, put in a new kitchen and floors, and fixed the bathroom in the apartment. But Tardif wasn’t finished. She is also executive director of Music Drives Us, the nonprofit founded by car magnate Ernie Boch Jr. Rohlfing needed a job, and Tardif needed help, so she hired her at Boch’s foundation.”

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