Constitution Beach’s Water Quality Slipped a Bit in 2021 But Still Gets an A

On Memorial Day East Boston’s Constitution Beach was packed with swimmers and sunbathers for the unofficial start of summer.

From here on in as the weather warms to summer temperatures residents and visitors to Constitution Beach are sure to enjoy months of fun-filled beach activities at the neighborhood’s only public beach.

Just in time for summer  Save the Harbor/Save the Bay released its annual Metropolitan Beaches Water Quality Report Card on the 2021 beach season and Constitution Beach once again received high marks last year.

According to Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Annual Beach Water Report Card, Constitution  Beach scored an A and with a score of 91 percent.

However, this score represented a drop of seven points from 2020 but still above one of the beach’s lowest grades during the summer of 2019.

Constitution Beach scored a 91 percent last summer after posting a 98 percent in 2020.

In 2019 Constitution Beach  scored a 90 percent; a 94 percent in 2018; a 95 percent in 2017; and a 96 percent in 2016.

Overall Constitution Beach’s six year average for water quality is 94 percent.

Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Executive Director Chris Mancini said rainfall had a significant impact on the water quality at Constitution Beach as well as other Metropolitan Beaches.

The report released showed that 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.

The report points out that 2020 was a relatively dry year, with only a few large summer storms and relatively fewer wet weather impacts, hence the high score Eastie’s beach received that year.

“Considering the wet weather, most of the region’s beaches scored quite well, earning A’s and B’s” said Mancini. “Sadly the Department of Public Health’s beach posting and flagging protocols failed to make the grade again this year.”

Mancini noted that 75 percent of the red flags that flew on Constitution Beach in 2021 were wrong while an astonishing 100% of the red flags on Eastie’s 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,” he said.

According to Save the Harbor’s Director of Strategy & Communications Bruce Berman working with the DPH Save the Harbor/Save the Bay 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.”

This year Save the Harbor conducted a detailed study of Constitution Beach 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,” he said. “We can – and should – do better than the current system, which relies on yesterday’s results and is a terrible predictor of today’s water quality.”

Boston continues to track down and correct old combined outfall sewer connections and broken pipes that affect water quality at Eastie’s beach.

The Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) has been working all spring in the Jeffries Point area to address these issues.

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

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 at the beach during the summer months 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 storm water drains. Boston Water and Sewer offers replacement services to residents if these old hook ups are discovered by a homeowner and reported to BWSC.

Beach safety scores are calculated as the percent of samples that comply with the DPH’s single sample limit for bacteria. Weekly water quality testing began in late May of 2021. Additional daily testing at Constitution Beach, King’s Beach, Malibu Beach, Tenean Beach and Wollaston Beach began in early June and ended on Labor Day.

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