Launched in November 2012, the Mystic River Clean Water Campaign advocates for unimpaired water quality to be established in the 22 community, Mystic River Watershed. The Clean Water Campaign is based upon the Mystic River Watershed Association's Water Quality Policy Statement, adopted in March 2012 (see below). This simple policy statement outlines clear objectives that will, when implemented, move the Mystic River Watershed toward much improved water quality.
Thanks to 40 years of effort and results obtained from MyRWA’s certified water quality monitoring programs, water chemistry and the sources of pollution within the Mystic are now well understood. Now is the time to execute solutions.
To attain the high goals set out in the Mystic River Watershed Association’s Water Quality Policy Statement, concerted and coordinated action from residents, municipalities, regulators and legislators is required. It is important to engage all key stakeholders to develop appropriate clean-up and restoration plans and to secure funding to implement these efforts. To support this initiative, MyRWA will continue to enhance its communication programs to increase awareness of water quality challenges and opportunities in the Mystic.
“This new resolution,” stated EkOngKar Singh Khalsa, MyRWA's Executive Director, “underscores our commitment to working closely with cities and towns and with regional authorities on this issue and to step up our outreach to watershed residents to achieve the shared goal of a healthy Mystic River. The Mystic River has consistently received a “D” water quality rating by the US EPA Boston regional office. This grade is unacceptable to everyone who cares about clean water. With our partners and concerned residents we will work hard to resolve this issue and to bring environmental conditions in the Mystic in line with the cleanest urban rivers in Massachusetts and the world. Although it will take time, this is entirely possible and will bring an enormous benefit to public health and will help preserve a popular and important recreational resource. At the end of the day, what is needed is to restore people’s confidence in a vital natural resource that we all share and have in common and which provides significant benefit and value to our communities.”
Get involved! Volunteers are sought to participate in this endeavor; please contact the MyRWA office at 781-316-3438 to get involved.
Interested in learning more? Read this Q&A with MyRWA's Executive Director, EK Khalsa.
Mystic River Watershed Association's WATER QUALITY POLICY STATEMENT
In order to ensure that water quality in the Mystic River Watershed is restored to a healthy condition and to insure that this clean water is protected in the future, the Mystic River Watershed Association adopts the following goals and objectives for immediate implementation.
We are determined that:
- Human sewage will no longer be discharged to the Mystic River, or its watershed lakes, tributaries or streams.
- All stormwater discharges to the river shall meet water quality standards.
- Historic industrial contamination of the river sediments and on adjacent brownfield parcels will be thoroughly evaluated and addressed through appropriate remedial measures to protect public health and ensure safe recreational use.
What Changes and Improvements Does MyRWA Recommend to Help Improve Conditions?
MyRWA continues to focus on improvement of water quality in the Mystic River and tributaries as a key component of a healthy river system and as one of the primary goals of the organization. One of the largest sources of pollution is leaking sanitary (sewage) infrastructure under many, if not all, of the communities in the Mystic. These sanitary pipes leak into the saturated soil or directly to stormwater pipes intended to carry rainwater to the Mystic River resulting in polluted runoff that impairs boating and other recreational uses.
First steps will include identification of the infrastructure needing improvement and appropriate repair of these, often aged, pipe sheds. This effort will require both immediate repair as well as development of comprehensive and regular maintenance programs.
To address contaminated stormwater, the other most prominent source of pollution in the Mystic, will require new ways to manage significant rain events. The Mystic River Watershed is densely developed and tremendous amounts of nutrients and pollutants are washed off the pavement into the river water with each new storm.
MyRWA strongly supports the development of distributed small-scale 'green' solutions that infiltrate stormwater into the ground and mimic natural processes, where possible. These structures are often called 'Best Management Practices (BMPs) or sometimes 'Low Impact Development' (LID). Creating more pervious surface in the watershed is essential to effectively reducing flooding and the pollution it causes. Finally, MyRWA advocates for the elimination of combined sewer and sanitary sewer overflow events from the Mystic. Many of the other issues that affect river health and ecology, including uncontrolled outbreaks of invasive plants and cyan bacteria, are connected to these inputs.
All of the efforts outlined above, in addition to eliminating significant sources of water pollution, will help to make the Mystic River Watershed more resilient to climate change and will help to prevent serious public health issues that can arise from large scale flooding during major storm events.
What Are the Most Critical Public Health Issues Associated with Mystic River Water in its Current State?
The most significant health issues connected with the Mystic River and tributaries are the spread of pathogens associated with leaking sewer infrastructure and from discharges (sewer overflows) of human sewage.
MyRWA regularly tests bacteria levels (E. coli, Enterococcus, Fecal coliform) in all the water bodies of the Mystic but these tests are only proxies for the suite of pathogens contained in sanitary material released to the river. Additional pathogens of concern include other harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites. The second health issue of concern is the seasonal bloom of Cyanobacteria bacteria (blue green algae) that release toxins into the water.
Finally, sediments in the Mystic are contaminated with a variety of toxic substances and could represent a public health threat if people come in contact with them. In most cases, people can recreate without sediment contact however more research is needed on this issue to properly characterize the health risks associated with periodic exposure to heavy metals and other contaminants in these river sediments.
Where Can Residents, Reporters, and Stakeholders Learn More About Existing Conditions?
- Mystic River Watershed Association's website provides a wealth of information on existing conditions in the watershed, as well as information on educational events and safe recreational opportunities.
- Mystic River Electronic Environmental Atlas - an online map based information system developed by MyRWA and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
- Municipal websites in towns and cities in the watershed. (By conducting a web search using the terms 'stormwater' and 'town name' you will be able to find a wealth of information as demonstrated by sites in the communities of Belmont and Cambridge.)
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection website contains state level regulations and programs relating to water quality.
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Mystic River Initiative website details ongoing regulation development, existing regulations and enforcement actions, work, science, meetings and collaborations.