Mystic River Scores C- in Water Quality

May 17, 2010
EPA says good progress underway

At the Mystic River Watershed Assn.’s 14th annual Herring Run & Paddle, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the fourth public reporting on the condition of the Mystic River since kicking off a collaborative effort addressing water quality issues in the urban river in 2006. This year, EPA is pleased to report that the Mystic River Watershed received a grade of "C-" for the calendar year of 2009.

EPA New England’s regional administrator, Curt Spalding, joined community members and environmental advocates at the Blessing of the Bay Boathouse in Somerville, Mass., to announce the grade and celebrate the return of the herring to the Mystic.

“We are proud to have a successful and strong partnership now forged between local citizens all the way up through federal government, with the shared goal of improving water quality in the Mystic River,” Spalding said. “A ‘C-‘ is a move in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do. By pulling together, we hope to make the Mystic River Watershed one of the most vital, most usable and most valued watersheds in the country.”

While last year saw a slight improvement in the grade (from the announcement of a D in 2007 and 2008 to a C- in 2009), this year the progress is holding steady at a C-. The grade for the Mystic River Watershed indicates that over the past year, water quality met swimming standards 57% of the time and boating standards 93% of the time. The grade is based on bacterial contamination.

The announcement of this year’s grade is not for a lack of effort or work going on in the watershed. Based on extensive surface water sampling conducted over the past two years, both EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection have issued a number of enforcement actions in 2009 targeted at improving water quality in the Mystic Watershed. Increased enforcement efforts since the inception of this effort have resulted in the removal of a number of illicit discharges of sewage to storm drains throughout the watershed. These enforcement efforts have resulted in the removal of more than 10,000 gal per day of sewage from storm drains in the Mystic watershed.

These aggressive efforts continue to address violations of water quality with regard to bacteria; however, there are many other water quality challenges to address in the future such as nutrients, storm water, contaminated sediments, etc.

"MWRA is pleased to finally be moving forward with major projects to address pollution problems in Alewife Brook," said Frederick A. Laskey, MWRA executive director. "Working together with the city of Cambridge, we will spend $117 million by 2015 to reduce combined sewer overflows by more than 85% from levels a decade ago."

Source: U.S. EPA