News broke around 7:51 PM on Friday, June 21st, that the annual swim to raise awareness and funds for clean water will be postponed this year, returning next June. Due to sewer overflows and recent evening rain, participating swimmers face dangerous conditions. Unfortunately, a mixture of stormwater and sewage was discharged into New Bedford Harbor, resulting in poor water quality and unsafe swimming conditions.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition and its President, Mark Rasmussen, are heartbroken by the decision. They released the following statement:

"I am very sorry to tell you that because of circumstances entirely beyond our control and in the interest of your safety, we are required to cancel the 31st Annual Buzzards Bay Swim scheduled for tomorrow morning, June 22nd. The event has been cancelled due to the threat of discharge of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) from the antiquated New Bedford Wastewater Treatment System into the harbor.

As I write this message, the rain is starting here in New Bedford. Weather forecasts are calling for more than half an inch of rain in this burst and overnight. That volume of rain in a short period of time overtaxes the aging New Bedford sewer system and results in the discharge of raw sewage from up to 27 pipes along the City’s coastline. When this happens within one tidal cycle of the swim start, the decision to cancel becomes not a choice, but an obligation to protect the health of all our swimmers.

The City of New Bedford has invested nearly half a billion dollars in the past 29 years to upgrade and improve its wastewater system. All of you—our swimmers—have seen these improvements in the water firsthand, and your fundraising over the years has helped drive the cleanup forward. The harbor is dramatically cleaner than it was when we began the swim in 1993, but this problem persists and needs even more advocacy to finish the work of ridding the bay of raw sewage discharges forever.

I cannot adequately relay to you in this moment just how disappointed and angry everyone here at the Buzzards Bay Coalition is to make this cancellation. We have dodged this bullet for 31 years, never having to cancel the event for this reason until today.

As you know, the Coast Guard only approves one specific day for this event each year to close the federal shipping channel, so there is no rain date.

We will be back in touch very soon with information about a post-cancellation event where we can commiserate a bit together, but also celebrate each other’s commitment to this event and to the cause of cleaning up the bay."

In lighter news, despite the swim itself being cancelled for 2024, the coalition succeeded in raising over $200,000 to continue their work to protect the waters of the SouthCoast and beyond. Until next year, eager swimmers will just have to wait.

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