The effects of climate change are already evident here in Massachusetts, and there is broad agreement among scientists that the effects will increase for years to come. The impacts being experienced now and that are predicted to continue include an increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events (storms, floods, droughts, heat waves) and increased occurrence of harmful bacteria in public water supplies. The warming atmosphere associated with climate change will accelerate thermal expansion of sea water and melting of glaciers and will lead to a rise in the sea level, which will further exacerbate coastal flooding from storms. In the areas where MassDEP has regulatory authority and/or influence, the agency is working on a variety of fronts to prepare the Commonwealth for these changes and to ensure sound response capability when extreme weather events strike.
MassDEP helps ensure that public water suppliers, wastewater treatment facilities, local public works departments, and other entities have the tools and information needed to respond to weather emergencies. This page contains information on debris management, emergency repairs to structures located in wetlands, guidance on responding to spill of oil or hazardous materials, and guidance and tools for water utilities.
MassDEP, along with other partners, has been helping assess the vulnerabilities of the Commonwealth’s wastewater and drinking water infrastructure to threats from future extreme-weather events, flooding, and coastal storm surges. Work is also being done to provide tools, guidance and assistance to these entities as they plan ahead. This link contains information on some of these activities and resources.
MassDEP works with stakeholders to identify potential regulatory and policy changes to the Chapter 91 Waterways Licensing Program requirements that will prepare coastal waterfront structures for increased storm intensity and frequency. Our goal is to develop draft regulations to ensure that new structures and modifications to structures regulated under the Waterways Licensing Program adequately take into account the best scientific predictions for sea level rise and coastal flooding.
MassDEP’s Drinking Water Program ensures that public water suppliers deliver drinking water that is safe and pure according to national and state standards. Our changing climate is expected to pose increased risks to drinking water quality, including water shortages due to increased droughts, flood inundation of drinking water wells, and more occurrence of source-water contamination from harmful bacteria and pathogens. MassDEP has a number of activities and information to help manage the potential risks to safe drinking water that may arise from climate change.
Extreme weather events contribute to spills and other releases of oil and hazardous materials to the environment. Flooding causes waste and fuel storage tanks to breach, and whenever our transportation infrastructure is impacted by extreme weather there is an increased risk of spills from trucks and trains that transport harmful materials. The Emergency Response Program at MassDEP responds on a 24/7 basis.