Image courtesy of Stantec

As Tropical Storm Elsa soaked New England on Friday, a mix of stormwater and sewage flowed for hours from MWRA outfall pipes into the Charles River, Mystic River and Boston Harbor.

Some of the discharges took place at the Prison Point outfall in Cambridge, which serves as a relief valve when sewers become overwhelmed by a mixture of stormwater and sanitary waste in rainstorms.

Now the city of Somerville is moving forward with a project that will create an artist and agricultural hub while simultaneously addressing an inadequate stormwater system which contributes to the Charles River sewer overflows.

The Art Farm project will transform a former municipal landfill into a mixture of exhibition and performance space and urban farming. The city is working with engineers Stantec to design a new pump station and underground storage tank on part of the 2.1-acre parcel at 10 Poplar St.

“Most of the infrastructure will be hidden from the public view, but we want to make sure the public is aware of what’s going on at the site and what’s being done to help with the stormwater,” said David VanHoven, a senior principal at Stantec.

The upgraded system will be designed to handle up to 50 million gallons of stormwater per day.

The Art Farm parcel is located in a low-lying neighborhood built on filled land that has been subject to increasing flooding in recent years. The MBTA Green Line Extension offered a potential fix when the transit agency agreed to let Somerville discharge stormwater into drainage system upgrades tied to the light rail project, after Somerville agreed to pay $50 million in 2016 to help cover cost overruns. The city also is planning a $30-million project separating sewer and stormwater pipes in the Spring Hill neighborhood.

Funding for the Poplar Street project is subject to approval in the city’s capital improvement plan. Stantec recently began final designs of the pump station, with bidding on the project scheduled to begin in 2022.

“Since the Miller’s River was filled and developed in the late 1800s, portions of Somerville have been plagued by flooding, which has been exacerbated in recent years by climate change,. The new station and the connection to the MBTA drainage provide a new way to handle stormwater in these low-lying, landlocked areas,” Somerville Director of Infrastructure and Asset Management Rich Raiche said in a statement.

A Somerville Art Hub Will Improve Charles River Water Quality

by Steve Adams time to read: 2 min