Save the Harbor/Save the Bay released its annual Metropolitan Beaches Water Quality Report Card on the 2021 beach season on Saturday, May 27 - just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
We have summarized the results in the following table. *
Rainfall has a significant impact on water quality on many beaches and varies substantially from year to year. In 2021 there were far more rain events in the region than in 2020, with 19 storms exceeding a half-inch of rain, 12 of which exceeded one inch of rainfall.
These seasonal variations are why Save the Harbor/Save the Bay is reluctant to draw conclusions from results for individual years, preferring to rely on multi-year averages in evaluating overall water quality on the region’s public beaches.
Despite the wet weather, Pleasure Bay and City Point Beach in South Boston, Nantasket Beach in Hull and Winthrop Beach had perfect scores of 100 % in 2021, while five area beaches scored between 82% - 94%.
“Considering the wet weather, most of the region’s beaches scored quite well, earning A’s and B’s” said Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Executive Director Chris Mancini, who noted that King’s Beach in Lynn and Swampscott and Tenean Beach in Dorchester continue to lag behind.
“Sadly the Department of Public Health’s beach posting and flagging protocols failed to make the grade again this year,” said Mancini, noting that 75% of the red flags that flew on Constitution Beach in East Boston in 2021 were wrong while an astonishing 100% of the red flags on that beach were incorrect in 2020. “We believe that there are better ways to provide timely and accurate information about beach water quality to those who need it most and would like to work with DPH and other stakeholders to get it right.”
According to Mancini, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that, though most of DPH’s website is available with Google Translate, their Bureau of Environmental Health beach water quality locator is still available in English only, though many beach goers primarily speak other languages in their home.
Rather than wait for DPH to update their website, Save the Harbor has posted the FAQ’s from the DPH site on their blog “Sea, Sand And Sky” where they can be easily translated into more 100 languages using Google Translate, which is an important first step.
According to Save the Harbor’s Director of Strategy & Communications Bruce Berman, “Working together with DPH, DCR, MWRA, and BWSC we can provide more accessible, timely and accurate water quality data to beachgoers, improving public access to the beach and better protecting the public’s health.”
According to Berman, this year Save the Harbor conducted a detailed study of Constitution Beach in East Boston to determine the accuracy of posted swimming advisories and beach flags and plans to evaluate other Metropolitan beaches using the same data review process.
“On many beaches, simply installing an accurate and accessible rain gauge and making the information available online in real time with a QR code would provide better information. We can – and should – do better than the current system, which relies on yesterday’s results which are a terrible predictor of today’s water quality.”
Save the Harbor/Save the Bay would like to thank Dr. Judy Pederson, former Chair of our Beaches Science Advisory Committee for her guidance in developing the methodology we use in this report.
We would also like to thank the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Richard M. Saltonstall Charitable Foundation, Kelly Coughlin of Stony Brook Partners, Ben Wetherill of Coastal Sensors, and Save the Harbor’s Environmental Policy Assistant Caroline Adamson.
Thanks as well to Metropolitan Beaches Commission Co-Chairs Senator Brendan Crighton of Lynn and Rep. Adrian Madaro of East Boston and each of the legislative and community members of the Commission for their commitment to clean water and the region’s public beaches from Nahant to Nantasket.
For more information on Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Beaches Report Card, contact Bruce Berman on his cell at 617-293-6243 or email email@example.com
To learn more about Save the Harbor/Save the Bay and the great work they do to restore, protect and share Boston Harbor, the waterfront, islands and the region’s public beaches with all Bostonians and the region’s residents, visit their website at www.savetheharbor.org and follow @savetheharbor on social media.
*Beach safety scores are calculated as the percent of samples that comply with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health single sample limit for bacteria, a straightforward way to evaluate seasonal beach water quality and potential impacts on public health.
Weekly water quality testing at Boston’s regional beaches began in late May of 2021. Additional daily testing of Constitution Beach, King’s Beach, Malibu Beach, Tenean Beach, and Wollaston Beach began in early June and concluded on Labor Day, September 6, 2021