The Mystic River Makes the Grade on Water Quality

Special to the Independent

In collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Mystic River Watershed Association issued the 2018 Water Quality Report Card for the Mystic River watershed yesterday at the Mystic Lakes Dam in Arlington, MA.

The Mystic River and the Mystic Lakes continue to have clean water–earning grades of A- and A in this latest report card. This is the fifth year in a row that the river and lakes have earned A-range grades.

Upper Mystic Lake meets public health standards for swimming more than 95% of the time in dry weather, and the Mystic River meets canoeing and rowing standards more than 98% of the ime in dry weather.

“I encourage community members to go out and boat on the Mystic and Malden Rivers, and to swim at Shannon Beach at Upper Mystic Lake,” said Patrick Herron, Executive Director of the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA). “These are great public resources. We are so happy that they we can provide evidence that they are clean at a time when they are also becoming more accessible for community members with more public boat launches, canoe/kayak rentals, and connected paths and parks.”

There is also good news downstream with water quality improvements noted at the Island End River between Everett and Chelsea. The grade at this site has improved from an F to a C+ in three short years.

However, the report did not contain all good news. Many of the smaller rivers and tributaries that lead to the Lakes and to the main stem of the Mystic continue to receive poor grades. For example, the Aberjona River receives a grade D+, while Alewife Brook gets a D.  And conditions at many locations are worse during and after rain events.

“The pollution tracked in the report card is bacteria pollution from untreated wastewater, which gets to rivers and lakes through old and leaky infrastructure. These pathways introduce more contamination when it rains, so bacteria levels are usually higher in wet weather, especially in time to invest in our watershed’s water quality is now,” said Andy Hrycyna, Watershed Scientist. “The report card gathers the data needed to fix old problems and plan for the future.”

The report card, which is issued for all major water bodies in the watershed (or, “watersheds in Massachusetts”) by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), uses data provided by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Mystic River Watershed Association’s Baseline Water Quality Monitoring Program. To gather baseline data, MyRWA depends on a cohort of dedicated citizen scientists who take water samples at 15 locations throughout the watershed each month. 

 About the Mystic River Watershed Association:

The Mystic River Watershed Association works to improve the lives of the more than 600,000 residents of Mystic River communities through its efforts to protect and restore water quality, natural habitat and open space throughout the 76 square mile watershed.

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