Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The BSAC plans some TLC for King's Beach

The Beaches Science Advisory Committee meeting to discuss the new plan.
It has been a busy start to the year at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay.  On February 2, just a few days after our Metropolitan Beaches Commission Meeting, we were back downtown for our Science Advisory Committee Meeting. The Committee is made up of scientists and experts who advocate for clean water and the protection and restoration of Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay. The Advisory Committee issues water quality and beach flagging report cards to inform the public and keep everyone healthy and safe when enjoying the beaches.

The meeting opened with introductions and a bit of background as to why the group was meeting to discuss King’s Beach in particular.  King’s Beach, located in the towns of Lynn and Swampscott, has been lagging behind some of our other Boston beaches.  With an average water quality compliance of 82% since 2011, King’s has the second lowest compliance rate after Tenean Beach in Dorchester. With other Boston beaches averaging a 100% compliance rate, the numbers at King’s are unacceptable. Kelly Coughlin, one of the committee’s water quality experts and the one who presented all of the research at the meeting, found that the problems at King’s Beach stem from Stacey’s Brook Outfall-which receives sewage discharge from both towns.  She also noted that King’s has a wet weather problem, because after it rains the bacteria counts skyrocket and there is a surcharge in the sewer system.

Info courtesy of Kelly Coughlin

The committee focused in on Enterococcus bacteria counts at the outfall and the smaller outfalls that filter into it.  To keep people safe the legal limit of Enterococcus is set at 104 colony-forming units/100mL of water.  There have been days at King’s Beach where the number of colony-forming units per 100 mL is well over 1000, often on days with wet weather.  The Committee determined that this is from bacteria and other waste getting into the sewer systems and outfalls, and then being washed out to the beach when it rains.  

Eastern Ave, the outfall in Lynn that discharges to Stacey’s Brook, has a higher number of failed dry and wet days, however, because non-stormwater discharges are a significant problem as well.  The major contributors to pollution at Stacey’s Brook are Eastern Ave and a combined sewer overflow (CSO) in Lynn and from neighborhoods and underdrains upstream in Swampscott.  Swampscott is classified as a Phase II stormwater community and discharges under a general municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) permit.  However, the sewer system is outdated, and part of the BSAC’s plan moving forward is the Sewer Rehabilitation Phase 1, and $11 million sewer rehabilitation including relining pipe, replacing sewer mains and service laterals, manhole rehabilitation and spot repairs, and replacing residential sewer laterals in this area.  In November 2015 the EPA and Town of Swampscott entered into a Consent Decree to identify and eliminate non-stormwater discharge to the storm drain system.  

The Lynn Water and Sewer Commission (LWSC) serves the city of Lynn, Nahant, Swampscott and Saugus, and has an average monthly flow of 26 million gallons per day.  It completed separation of its stormwater system, which resulted in fewer CSO activations, or less than 4 times each year. Lynn has a NPDES discharge permit for its wastewater treatment facility and 4 CSO outfalls (1 CSO discharges into Stacey Brook). Lynn has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) discharge permit for its wastewater treatment facility and 4 CSO outfalls (1 CSO discharges into Stacey Brook).
It also has a Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit to discharge stormwater to receiving waters.

During the meeting, the committee identified four phases of the Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination project.  Phase 1 is to map storm and sewer systems, and prioritize the outfall.  Phase 2 is the investigation stage, which includes public outreach, verification maps, storm drain cleaning, manhole inspection and flow monitoring, and field measurements.  Phase 3 is the confirmation of illicit sources, removal, and post-removal verification.  The final phase is to monitor bacteria, ammonia, surfactants, pH, and fluoride amounts.  The current trajectory is a 15-year long project, with funds coming in every other year.  Save the Harbor / Save the Bay has volunteered to help fund the gaps in data the committee identified.  The group will accelerate the process of cleaning up King’s and reduce the 15-year number.

What’s next for King’s Beach? Save the Harbor will be looking into data gaps and potential costs, and the committee will come together after all sides look at the problem again. To follow the updates on what the committee is doing and what is new at King’s Beach and all Boston public beaches, follow Save the Harbor / Save the Bay on Facebook, or @savetheharbor on Twitter and Instagram, and keep checking our blog.

Image from Let’s clean up the stink at King’s Beach – by Yvonne Abraham

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