What’s the deal with this stinky river in Lawrence?

“Sometimes over here it smells like a dead body."

The Spicket River flows over a waterfall in Methuen on Dec. 27, 2020. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The trash that’s accumulated on the banks of the Spicket River in Lawrence isn’t just a harmful eyesore.

It reeks.

“Sometimes over here it smells like a dead body,” resident Ann Cooney recently told Boston 25 News. “They’re trashing and polluting it, and it’s disgusting.”

The pollution has been a longstanding problem residents say, but as of late, more of them are speaking up and complaining about the smell along the 17-mile river that stretches from New Hampshire into the Merrimack River, according to the news station.

A Boston 25 News reporter spotted propane tanks, toys, a mattress, and a plastic lawn chair among the debris visible from a Haverhill Street bridge on Monday evening.


“There’s [sports] balls there, propane tanks, there’s so much trash, it’s horrible,” Dawn Costigan, who won’t let her 11-year-old son go near the river, told the outlet.

Tuesday’s nor’easter is forecast to pummel New England with rain and wind. Costigan said when the river floods, the floating garbage, in turn, pollutes the streets.

“It floods up here, and then you get all the backwash and all that nasty stuff coming up our way,” she said.

Rocky Morrison founded the Clean River Project in 2005 to clean up and protect 45 miles of the Merrimack River in Massachusetts.

Morrison, who believes the pollution has to be addressed, told Boston 25 News his office receives a lot of complaints about the Spicket River.

“They call us at our office and complain about this all the time, but there’s only so much funding that goes into a small river like this,” he said.

The news station reached out to Lawrence’s acting mayor, Kendrys Vasquez, but did not receive a response on Monday night.

Costigan told the outlet the trash is a problem — and so too is the message it sends to her son.


“People just don’t care,” she said. “People are lazy and disgusting, and they just don’t care that they are ruining our environment.”

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