This week we were at Carson Beach, which is actually one of the cleanest urban beaches not only in Boston, but in the entire United States. Last year, Carson scored a 100% on Save the Harbor's water quality tests, along with Pleasure Bay, M Street Beach, and City Point Beach, all of which are located on the same stretch of coastline in South Boston. Revere Beach and Constitution Beach have fairly good water quality as well. Tenean Beach and Savin Hill Beach in Dorchester are struggling, with water quality scores under 80%. These scores represent the percentage of water samples taken from each beach that stayed under the bacteria limit per sample set by the Massachusetts Department of Health. For example, at Carson, all water samples taken had bacteria levels lower than the Department of Health limit. Other than bacteria levels, levels of dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, salinity, and nutrients are also commonly used to test water quality. However, bacteria levels are generally used to decide whether a beach's water quality is safe to swim in. If E. coli levels exceed 88 parts per 100 milliliters, or Enterococci levels exceed 104 parts per 100 milliliters, the water is considered unsafe for swimming. These bacterial levels can change from day to day due to factors such as rainfall, which can both carry bacteria and wash contaminants into the ocean waters. Since bacteria quantities can change drastically with just one day of rainfall, it can be very difficult to properly measure water quality.
|Carson Beach from the water|
So why do we care about water quality? As humans, we need to care about whether water is safe to swim in. We can determine whether beaches are safe to swim from water quality tests of bacterial levels. If a person swims in water with unsafe bacteria levels, they are at risk of contracting certain gastrointestinal diseases. Water quality affects ocean animals and ecosystems as well. High bacteria levels and low oxygen levels can make ocean creatures more susceptible to disease, which damages the ecosystem as a whole. Some ecosystems, such as wetlands and streamside rivers, purify water naturally, but keeping water quality high is still a challenge, especially in Boston. Firstly, we don't have many of these naturally purifying ecosystems in the city. Another big issue is our sewage system. When sewage overflows or finds its way into storm drains, it travels directly into Boston's waterways rather than a sewage treatment system. Lastly, Boston gets a lot of rain and snowstorms, and the precipitation can pick up chemicals and bacteria from the ground before flowing into storm drains or directly into our waterways. However, despite all of these challenges to keeping water quality high, our Harbor is still much better off today than it was in the past. Boston Harbor used to be so gross that people didn't even want to look at it, and now Boston has some of the cleanest urban beaches in America. Unfortunately, many people still have the perception that Boston's beaches are dirty and don't take advantage of living on the waterfront. We should encourage people to spend time on Boston's beaches by recommending them as places to visit in the city and posting about them on social media. Last week, Vanessa and I got some people out to visit Revere Beach by holding a soccer practice there! It'd be a shame to live so close to these beautiful beaches and not take advantage of them.
|The Boston Harbor Goonies @ Carson Beach|
“Bacteria in Surface Waters.” Environmental Fact Sheet, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, 2019, www.des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/factsheets/bb/documents/bb-14.pdf.
“Environmental Challenges for the Charles River.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 23 July 2020, www.epa.gov/charlesriver/environmental-challenges-charles-river.
Firth, Penny. “Ecosystem Services - Water Purification.” Science NetLinks, American Association for the Advancement of Science, sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/ecosystem-services-water-purification/#:~:text=Wetlands%20and%20streamside%20(riparian)%20forests,bottom%20or%20are%20filtered%20out.&text=There%20are%20many%20other%20stream%20animals%20that%20help%20filter%20the%20water.
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“Water Quality Report Card.” Save The Harbor, Save The Harbor, 22 July 2020, www.savetheharbor.org/reportcard.