Like many other older industrial cities in Massachusetts and elsewhere, the federal government has instructed the City of New Bedford to upgrade its wastewater and water infrastructure. Efforts to do so have been ongoing for decades. Fall River is in the same boat. It is a costly process that will take years to complete.

The infrastructure is such that when it rains heavily, raw sewage runs unabated into the harbor. It's nasty. The Environmental Protection Agency, under the Clean Water Act, wants it to stop – and you should too.

We reported in the spring that the New Bedford City Council has done nothing to secure additional funding for the project and unless the council acted quickly, the EPA would levy staggering fines. Well, the council still has not acted, and as a result, the city missed a deadline for applying for an $11 million state grant and may have missed a deadline for the $10 million loan order necessary to obtain the grant.

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Jack Spillane updates the current situation in an excellent piece for The New Bedford Light and it's not a pretty picture. As we reported in the spring, Jack states New Bedford could face fines of up to $56,000 per day unless the council votes to authorize borrowing to fund the next phase of the project. Some councilors have been hesitant to do so. They are concerned about the impact of necessary sewer and water rate hikes and are attempting to figure out how to minimize the impact on property owners.

The truth of the matter is that there are going to be rate increases that will be painful to some, but the council must act and do so quickly to restart the project before the EPA makes an already bad situation even worst for ratepayers.

It is an election year and councilors who face re-election are hesitant to raise water and sewer rates again, but they have to bite the bullet and do what has to be done. The matter goes before the council's finance committee on September 20 and the full city council three days later.

The time to act on this was yesterday. Let's get it done.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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