RECREATION FLAGGING PROJECT

Is it safe to boat or swim today? This question is at the core of the Recreational Risk Assessment Project, a collaboration with Tufts University and MyRWA.

The project seeks to develop a flagging system in the watershed to alert recreational users to safe or unsafe conditions by hanging a color coded flag and/or electronic signage (i.e. Arduino) to communicate water quality conditions. The first stage of this project spans two years (2015-2016) and includes collection and analysis of water quality samples (results below) and the development of models to predict water quality conditions. By May 2017 MyRWA will develop the online and physical flagging system and conduct outreach related to the project.

This project is funded by Massachusetts Environmental Trust.

SAMPLING LOCATIONS

Six areas of high recreational use will be part of this sampling effort: Borggaard Beach at Wedge Pond in Winchester, Shannon Beach on Upper Mystic Lake in Winchester, Wright's Pond Beach in Medford, Blessing of the Bay Boathouse on the Mystic River in Somerville, center channel of the Mystic River in Medford/Somerville and at the Malden River in Everett/Malden.

SAMPLING RESULTS

During the 2015 sampling season (38 sampling days), 483 samples were collected by 14 samplers (staff, trained volunteers and interns) and analyzed at Tufts or MyRWA for bacteria (Enterococcus or Escherichia Coli) or turbidity.

Implementation of the IDEXX method to analyze bacteria concentrations in the water quality samples. After 24 hours in the incubator, the number of large and small fluorescent wells in the tray determines the bacteria concentration in that sample. Photo by Jessica Haitz.

Implementation of the IDEXX method to analyze bacteria concentrations in the water quality samples. After 24 hours in the incubator, the number of large and small fluorescent wells in the tray determines the bacteria concentration in that sample. Photo by Jessica Haitz.

PROJECT OUTCOMES

The program will leverage expertise in water quality sampling, modeling, programming, electronics, and outreach to create a low cost and effective alert system for keeping recreational users safe in the watershed. Predictive models will send water quality results to an automated flagging system that includes a webpage, an automated Twitter feed for each area, an automated text message response system, and electronic signs at all six locations. Our expectation is that this program will bring greater visibility and understanding of conditions in the Mystic River.

PROJECT TIMELINE

Aug. 2015 – Oct. 2016, Collection and analysis of water quality samples for Enterococcus or Escherichia Coli and turbidity
Oct. 2016 – Dec. 2016, Development of six distinct logistic models
Dec. 2016 – April 2017, Development of outreach materials: online flagging website, twitter accounts, text message response system
Dec. 2016 – April 2017, Deployment of flagging and electronic signs at a minimum of 2 sites
Aug. 2015 – April 2017, Outreach via e-newsletter, press releases, public presentations
May 2017 - Final report

PROJECT PARTNERS

Professor John Durant, Tufts University Civil and Environmental Engineering
Dr. Jeffrey Walker, Environmental Consultant