May 16, 2011

Mystic River Water Quality Score Downgraded Despite Efforts

Officials say more work is needed after river received a grade of D-

At the Mystic River Watershed Assn.’s annual Herring Run and Paddle, Environmental Protection Agency and Mystic River Watershed Assn. officials announced for the fifth time the condition of the river since kicking off a collaborative effort addressing water quality issues in 2006. This year, the watershed received a D- grade for 2010.

EPA New England officials 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.

“Although our grade is not where we would like it to be, we have solidified strong partnerships and defined a set of priorities to improve water quality and open space,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Curt Spalding.
During the past two years, the grade for the river’s water quality was C-. The grade is based on bacterial contamination, and the latest grade was based on monitoring data over the past year showing that water quality met swimming standards only 28% of the time, while boating standards were met 70% of the time.

The announcement of this year’s grade isn’t for a lack of effort to improve water quality conditions in the watershed. Both EPA and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection officials continue to issue a number of enforcement actions targeted at improving water quality in the watershed. Enforcement efforts have resulted in the removal of more than 12,000 gal per day of sewage from storm drains, with numerous additional illicit connections that have been identified scheduled to be removed this year.

Long-term effort to improve this watershed will be achieved through a collaborative effort amongst all stakeholders. Earlier this spring, the Mystic River Watershed Initiative Steering Committee signed a mission and set of priorities that will guide its actions through 2012. The focus is on water quality as well as open space and public access.