"Merrimack River, Massachusetts" by eutrophication&hypoxia is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Andover Health Department is urging people to avoid contact with the Merrimack River for 48 hours after heavy rains caused sewage overflows in three cities along the river early Tuesday morning.

The overflows occur when stormwater runoff is too much for the sewage system to process. The first overflow was reported at 12:30 a.m. in Haverhill, followed by an overflow in Lowell at 1:10 a.m. and another at 1:50 a.m. in Lawrence.

“These overflows contain stormwater, untreated or partially treated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris, rendering the Merrimack River unsafe,” Andover Health Director Thomas Carbone said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

“The public is reminded that Andover’s water supply is treated prior to distribution to the public, and remains safe,” Carbone said.

This story was updated after its initial publication to include information from the Andover Health Department.

Photo: “Merrimack River, Massachusetts” by eutrophication&hypoxia is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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