The Advisory Board has recently raised concerns over staffing levels a the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR’s) Division of Water Supply and Protection (DWSP). The Division fills the critical role of ensuring the quality of the MWRA’s public water supply, and understaffing could have many repercussions, including the requirement to build a filtration plan estimated to cost nearly $500 million.
Despite the fact that DWSP is fully funded by MWRA ratepayers and overseen by the Water Supply Protection Trust who have given direction to fill unfilled vacancies as quickly as possible, staffing levels have continued far below the levels required to fulfill DWSP’s mission. At the time of this writing, DWSP’s staffing has averaged 11% below 150 FTEs determined to be the appropriate level of staffing for the division.
The Advisory Board is proposing legislation that would amend the Chapter 149 of the Acts of 2004, which would reinforce the Water Supply Protection Trusts role in directly managing DWSP staffing and expenses to fill these positions as quickly as possible.
This letter was sent to Senate Leadership on May 18, 2021, and outlines our arguments for a legislative solution to administrative problem.
Chapter 149 of the Acts of 2004 established the Water Supply Trust to oversee the Division of Water Supply Protection.
Click the image to view the excerpt of the law related to the Water Supply Protection Trust.
Each year, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) inspects the Quabbin Reservoir, Ware River, and Wachusett watersheds specifically related to the MWRA’s ongoing waiver for filtration under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
This year’s reports have underscored the concerns raised by the Advisory Board, and discussed repeatedly by the Water Supply Protection Trust and the MWRA Board of Directors related to the Division of Water Supply Protection’s (DWSP’s) staffing levels.
In short, MassDEP expresses concerns that current levels of staffing – below DWSP’s previously identified needs – could impact critical watershed protection programs. MWRA and DCR DWSP will now be required to backfill critical vacancies or provide other strategies (e.g. contract services) to ensure all Watershed Protection Program workloads are met, and DCR will be reporting quarterly to MassDEP on the status of staffing as well as impacts to the watershed protection programs.