Environmental justice refers to disproportionate environmental burdens borne along racial, ethnic and economic lines.
The Mystic River Watershed is home to about 8% of the Commonwealth's population - 500,000 people - yet covers less than 1% of the land, making the Watershed one of the most densely populated and urban watersheds in the state. Ten of the twenty Massachusetts communities considered "most intensively overburdened" by density of ecological hazards lie within the Mystic River Watershed, according to environmental justice research (Faber, Unequal Exposures to Ecological Hazards, 2005). Environmental hazards within the watershed include hazardous waste sites, transfer stations, incinerators, polluting industrial facilities, and power plants. The watershed is further impacted by extensive impervious surface, limited green space, and limited recreational access to the waterfront. A P6 level fish advisory (the most severe category, recommending against consumption of all fish) is assigned to the Mystic and the Malden River by the MA-Department of Environmental Protection.
The Mystic River Watershed Association works with environmental justice communities - often by partnering with local community groups such as Groundwork Somerville and Chelsea GreenRoots - to improve local environmental conditions, provide education about water quality and inform advocacy efforts.