Constitution Beach, One of the Areas Cleanest Beaches

With the unofficial start of summer kicking off this past Memorial Day weekend, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay released its annual report on the water quality at East Boston’s Constitution Beach.

According to Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Annual Beach Water Report Card, Constitution Beach scored 94 percent for the summer of 2018. While the score was one point less than the previous summer, Constitution Beach still remains one of the Top 10 cleanest beaches from Nahant to Nantasket and has a six year average score of 95 percent.

Since 2012, the first year Save the Harbor/Save the Bay released its annual water quality report, Constitution Beach has gone from a score of 89 percent to 97 percent in 2013 to 96 percent in 2014. However, in 2015 the beach’s score slipped to 89 percent.  This low score for 2015 was the result of contaminated stormwater from frequent summer rains that year. Though total rainfall measured at Boston’s Logan Airport was down from 10.21 inches in 2014 to 8.9 inches in 2015, there were more than 30 days of rain during the swimming season.

Constitution Beach rebounded the following year with a score of 96 percent for 2016 and then a score of 95 percent in 2017.

“As you can see, it’s largely a “good news” story,” said Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Bruce Berman. “Overall water quality (at Metropolitan beaches) was 95 percent – up a bit from 2017 – which is good news. Despite the record rainfall last year, which appears to be the new normal, 13 of the 15 metropolitan beaches scored over 90 percent with seven achieving perfect scores of 100%, which is also very good news.”

Berman said the drop in some scores at beaches like Constitution and neighboring Winthrop Beach was not surprising. Like 2015, last year was a relatively rainy swimming season for the Boston Harbor.

“Though Lynn and Swampscott and Boston Water and Sewer continue to track down and correct illicit connections and broken pipes, it is a slow go and there are no easy fixes,” he said.

Berman has long said that there are two ways to fix an urban beach problem. One way is to sever every pipe that goes into the beach like the city did in South Boston years ago but that is very expensive.

The other way to ensure cleaner water is for residents to look at their own water and sewer hook ups and make sure they are not old hook ups that lead out into the storm water drains.

Both Lynn and Swampscott have planned improvements to their sewer and stormwater systems, which Berman said he expects will result in significant improvement in water quality on King’s Beach when they are completed.

However, things are a lot better than they were 25 years ago when the Deer Island treatment facility was in disarray and broken outflow just off the harbor beaches were pumping 200 million gallons of raw sewage back into the water after heavy storms.

Old combined outfall hook ups would mix stormwater and sewage together after a big storm and pump it out into the harbor.

“Save the Harbor believes that sound science and good data are critical to the success of the Boston Harbor cleanup,” said Berman. “Our annual Metropolitan Beaches Water Quality Report Card gives the public important information they need to make informed decisions about where and when it is safe to swim on the region’s public beaches from Nahant to Nantasket. Rather than rely on one year’s results – or on flags or postings, which are based on tests which take 24 hours to develop – we urge the public to use common sense and the multi-year year average included in this report as they make decisions about where and when to swim.”

The Beach Water Quality Report Card is based on an in-depth analysis of thousands of samples taken by the DCR and the MWRA in 2017. The samples were collected at 34 testing sites on public beaches in 9 communities including Eastie, Winthrop, Nahant, Lynn, Revere, Winthrop, South Boston, Dorchester, Quincy, and Hull. It is based on methodology developed by Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Beaches Science Advisory Committee (BSAC), Co-Chaired by Dr. Judy Pederson of MIT’s Sea Grant Program.

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