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Blog - Charles River Watershed Association

Dig into the Depths of the Charles River

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

7/31/17 8:54 PM

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The Year in Review- Highlights from 2016

Posted by Alexandra Ash

12/14/16 9:59 AM

2016 marked important milestones for the restoration of the Charles River and its watershed: the elimination of heat pollution from the Kendall Power Plant, the daylighting of the Muddy River, and the removal of the hazardous sandbar near Brighton. 2016 also saw the worst drought since the 1960's, persistent stormwater pollution, another cyanobacteria bloom in the Charles River Lower Basin, and the nomination of a new US EPA Administrator who questions climate change. Through it all, CRWA passionately continued our work throughout the watershed developing smart, green water infrastructure, promoting restorative ways to reduce stormwater pollution and flooding, and advocating for strong and effective water policy and regulations. We couldn't have done this work without you—thank you! 

Below are just a few of the highlights from 2016. 

 

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Record-breaking Season for CRWA’s Canoeing for Clean Water Program

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

12/2/16 1:51 PM

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Volunteers pull invasive water chestnuts in the Charles River Lakes District.

Despite the emergence of water chestnut plants in the Lower Charles River Basin and on the Charles River in Cutler Park, the 2016 season of CRWA’s Canoeing for Clean Water program was a success.

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CRWA’s Water Quality Notification Program Completes 15th Season

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

11/9/16 12:21 PM

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CRWA volunteer Max Dulieu boats to the sampling site.

Since 2002, CRWA has partnered with boathouses in the Lower Charles River Basin to communicate potential public health risks to Charles River users during summer months. In the early years of the program, CRWA scientists would run recent rainfall data through simple models in Microsoft Excel first thing in the morning to estimate the concentrations of E. coli bacteria at four locations on the river: the North Beacon Street Bridge, the Larz Anderson Bridge, the BU Bridge, and the Longfellow Bridge. Our staff would then call boathouses to tell them which color flag they should fly: blue when there were no predicted public health risks and red when predicted E. coli bacteria levels exceeded the Massachusetts water quality standard for boating: 1,260 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters. CRWA also recorded predictions on a “hotline” that river users could call to find out the water quality predictions for the day.

 

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Fish Kill in Lower Charles River Basin

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

8/18/15 4:20 PM

While conducting routine water sampling on Wednesday, July 29th, Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) spotted six dead fish between the North Beacon Street bridge in Watertown/Brighton and the Larz Anderson bridge in Cambridge. Since that initial observation, CRWA has received many reports of additional fish kill sightings via our website and social media. We estimate that between 61 and 103 dead fish, reported pimarily as carp and large-mouth bass, have been observed between the Galen Street bridge in Watertown and the Longfellow Bridge in Cambridge/Boston.

 

Fish Kill Map

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Toxic Blue-Green Algae Outbreak Impacting Lower Charles River Basin

Posted by Margaret VanDeusen

8/13/15 11:09 AM

Algae at Weld Boathouse
  Algal bloom at Harvard's Weld Boathouse. Photo by CRWA
 
 
 
Alert issued by MA Department of Public Health
Yesterday, the MA Dept. of Public Health (DPH) received sampling results which confirmed that the Lower Charles River Basin is experiencing an extensive cyanobacteria, or toxic blue-green algae, bloom. Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) scientists responded to reports of “gross, greenish” looking water at the Weld Boathouse, near the Larz Anderson Bridge in Cambridge on Friday, August 7th. Follow up water sampling by CRWA volunteers indicated that concentrations of cyanobacteria cells in the river exceed DPH guidelines for recreational waters. DPH sampling on Monday confirms that cyanobacteria concentrations in the Lower Basin are roughly double the guideline threshold. The bloom is believed to stretch from Weld Boathouse all the way downstream to the New Charles River Dam. Cyanobacteria, which are photosynthetic bacteria, can produce toxins during a bloom in high enough concentrations to harm people, pets and wildlife.

 

 

The malodorous toxins can contribute to minor health impacts such as eye, ear, and skin irritation, or have more severe consequences for humans or their pets ranging from liver and neurological damage to death. People and pets should avoid contact with or ingestion of water with high concentrations of cyanobacteria, and river bank areas where the bacteria have washed up. If contact occurs, individuals should rinse off as soon as possible following exposure. Dogs can become quite ill and even die from contact with cyanobacteria scum. They should be prevented from licking cyanobacteria out of their fur and rinsed off immediately. Inhaling water spray containing cyanobacteria can cause asthma-like symptoms. Because wind and flow patterns can affect the location of the bloom, all recreational users of the Charles River Lower Basin should take precautions. State and local officials will be posting signs along this stretch of the Charles advising river users of the bloom.     

 

Low river levels with elevated water temperatures, hot sunny weather, and high phosphorus concentrations from polluted stormwater runoff provide the ideal environment for rapid growth of cyanobacteria and harmful toxin levels. According to U.S. EPA, the relationship between high phosphorus levels from storm water discharges to the Charles and the proliferation of cyanobacteria is well-established. Studies show that phosphorus, a nutrient which cyanobacteria require to grow, is present in the Charles at more than twice the levels the river can safely handle. This phosphorus, carried into the river by stormwater runoff flowing over impervious surfaces, including roads, parking lots and roofs, and discharged via storm drains, causes cyanobacteria and invasive aquatic plants to grow explosively, smothering and shading other aquatic organisms.

“Until municipalities and owners of large paved surfaces dramatically reduce their phosphorus runoff, these outbreaks will continue to harm the Charles and people’s enjoyment of this tremendous resource,” said Bob Zimmerman, CRWA’s Executive Director. “It is far past time for EPA and MassDEP to issue new stormwater permits to reduce these polluted discharges.”

Cyanobacteria blooms are becoming increasingly common in the Charles River during the summer months. A bloom in early June caused the Charles River Swim Club’s 1-mile race in the Lower Basin near the Memorial Hatch Shell to be postponed until July. Last summer, a toxic cyanobacteria bloom in Lake Erie shut down the drinking water supply for more than 400,000 Toledo area residents.

For more information contact Julie Wood, Director of Projects or Logan Bailey, Rita Barron Fellow. 

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Boating Safely in the Charles River

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

8/4/15 11:12 AM

Thanks to the historic cleanup of the Charles River, it is now safe to boat on the river most of the time. However, on some days the water quality in the Charles River does not meet public health standards for boating, especially after a heavy rain. On those days, although boating is still permissible, some people choose to stay off the water or take extra precautions.

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About Charles River Watershed Association:

One of the country's oldest watershed organizations, Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) was formed in 1965 in response to public concern about the declining condition of the Charles. Since its earliest days of advocacy, CRWA has figured prominently in major clean-up and watershed protection efforts, working with government officials and citizen groups from 35 Massachusetts watershed towns from Hopkinton to Boston. Initiatives over the last fifty years have dramatically improved the quality of water in the watershed and fundamentally changed approaches to water resource management.