Sustainable Braintree Questions – Erin Responds
Date Published: October 10, 2023
The following questions were posed to both mayoral candidates by Sustainable Braintree, a community advocacy group committed to helping Braintree residents, community groups, businesses and local government, conserve energy, promote clean and renewable energy, protect and restore the environment and live healthy, sustainable lifestyles. Here are Erin's responses:
What specific experience and knowledge will you bring to the role of Mayor that equips you to handle environmental challenges?
For my day job I’m a professional civil engineer working on projects across the Commonwealth - engineering solutions for stakeholders seeking to be climate-resilient and environmentally friendly. In my role, I’m engaged in daily discussions surrounding infrastructure resiliency, stormwater flooding prevention, and sustainable building practices. I’m usually sitting at a table (or Zooming) with planners, architects, engineers and local agencies innovating to create resilient towns and cities across Massachusetts. There are so many talented and innovative thinkers in the region who are working on tackling our unique and very real environmental challenges and I cannot wait to bring these people to the table in Braintree with a role as Mayor.
What specific strategies would you propose/endorse/fight for that would help Braintree mitigate/fight off the impact of climate change?
Simply put, I will always be an advocate for protecting Braintree from environmental forces - those known and those forecasted - because I am keenly aware of how integrated the built and natural environment are. After decades working as a professional civil engineer in this field, I have the technical skillset at my fingertips to help Braintree. However, there are many things beyond protecting the built environment that can help sustain our Town into the future.
One specific strategy my administration will use to fight climate change is education - raising awareness and engagement of all residents to tackle the impacts of climate change on Braintree. Specifically, I will be working to bring a modernized vocational program to the high school through state programs and grants, including those directly focused on Environmental and Life Sciences and Clean Energy. Giving Braintree students the tools to take us into the sustainable future is a great place for my Administration to start!
What are your top five environmental concerns for Braintree, why are you concerned about them, and what should your administration do about them?
Environmental Concern #1: Caring for, protecting, and preserving our green spaces
The benefit of green space to community is unparalleled - parks, nature trails, meadows, and playgrounds are a respite to time spent on highways and at work. We need to be thoughtful and strategic to make these spaces loveable and clean and to ensure they will last for many generations to come. My administration will work to create a Land Stewardship Program that will aim to engage interested residents to create an accountable pathway between them and the Town to keep our parks beautiful, clean and loveable! My Land Stewardship program would initially launch as a Think Tank to figure out logistics but I envision a program where residents are designated stewards and advocates for specific parks and greenspaces.
Environmental Concern #2: Sea Level Rise along our Coastal Waterfront
Impacts of sea level rise are already noticeable along our coastal waterfront in the Fore River Basin during high tides and publicly realized in one of Braintree’s first climate resiliency projects at Watson Park - where a metal art installment projects at the water’s edge the predicted high tide sea level in 2070. While predictions and projections are just that - we are seeing value in elevating critical infrastructure above potential floodwaters, improving barriers that protect our community along the water’s edge and stabilizing our shorelines to protect valuable real-estate in people’s homes and our parks. My administration will work to identify areas in Town that are most vulnerable to sea level rise and participate in regional discussions regarding our ability to adapt to sea level rise, understand regional efforts and resources available for coastal communities building resiliency and find public funding for projects that protect residents from the impacts of sea level rise.
Environmental Concern #3: Drinking Water Protection
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS or PFASs) have made headlines recently as being known contaminants in our soils and groundwater and have prompted cities and towns to upgrade drinking water infrastructure to remove them. PFASs are likely not the last chemical we will find that is contaminating our drinking water. We need to be mindful of options to protect our drinking water resources through identifying potential sources for drinking water contamination in the watershed and being able to upgrade the water treatment process on a system-wide basis when new contaminants are discovered. My administration will make access to information on our drinking water transparent and easily accessible to the community and we would proactively work to maintain and improve the pipes that transmit clean water reliably to our faucet. We will seek out public funding and private partnership opportunities to upgrade and improve the entire town-wide water system from main transmission lines to residential services - understanding where drinking water contaminants come from and how to protect residents should be information we are constantly communicating.
Environmental Concern #4: Awareness and Response to Man-Made Environmental Hazards
Braintree made headlines this past winter due to a near environmental disaster at Clean Harbors in the Fore River Basin of East Braintree and the incident highlighted many areas where the Town of Braintree could do better to protect residents from hazards in our environment that are caused by local industry. While I am thankful for the Braintree Fire Department and their quick actions to stabilize the Fore River Basin incident, it was apparent that Braintree needs additional support for hazardous response events across multiple Town agencies. Throughout Braintree, the environmental risk varies and residents and business owners should be able to rest-assured that the Town has adequate resources and communications to protect the public, no matter the size of the event. My administration will prioritize understanding local environmental hazards and working with respective private companies, public agencies, first responders and residents to ensure adequate response plans are in place with appropriate emergency notifications available in the event of another incident.
Environmental Concern #5: Strengthening our Local Ecosystem - Improving walkability and Improving Access to Local Food
Imagine year-round Farmer’s Markets as commonplace and easy, walkable access to local produce and foods. Imagine outdoor Town centers and neighborhood parks with areas designated for communal gardening and gathering - a place where neighbors can grab a spare tomato or donate excess harvests to local food banks. Imagine building upon the recent success of small-businesses opening and providing healthy, local, grab-and-go dining options as opposed to the fast-food fixes sprinkled throughout the Town; more places you can walk to, less reasons to drive. New businesses like Schubert Provisions, Fasanos Marketplace, Waves Seafood and the continued expansion of the weekly Farmer’s Market offerings are the real catalysts to lasting change that encourages walkability and provides healthy food options for eating local in our homes. My administration will look for ways to support existing and new local businesses that provide healthy, local food options and seek out public grants that provide educational resources to promote the importance of community, walkability and local dining. Can Braintree become a “Blue Zone” - made popular by the recent Netflix series? Wouldn’t it be great to try!?