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EPA Kicks Off Major Effort to Improve Conditions of Mystic River Watershed

Release Date: 04/17/2007
Contact Information: David Deegan (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – April 17, 2007) - EPA's New England regional office has launched a collaborative effort with the communities along the Mystic River, together with local environmental organizations, to address water quality issues in the Mystic Watershed. The effort, modeled on EPA’s successful Charles River Initiative, has similar goals of making the Mystic River and its tributary streams meet the goals of the Clean Water Act. This means restoring the watershed to both fishable and swimmable conditions based on measurable water quality standards.

EPA’s New England regional administrator Robert Varney was joined by community members and environmental advocates near a Somerville Boys and Girls Club on the Mystic who were engaged in a springtime river cleanup.

“We’re going to take what we’ve learned from cleaning the Charles River, and apply it to the Mystic - another major urban river of the Boston metro area,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “There are no magic bullets; this is hard work and will require a long term effort from federal, state and local government, as well as the help of citizens. Luckily, we have some great partners in the area who are committed to making a cleaner environment for our kids’ future.”

The Mystic River Watershed Initiative will be a cooperative effort including EPA, the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP), the U.S. Coast Guard, the Mystic River Watershed Association (“MyRWA”) and the Chelsea Creek Restoration Partnership, as well as the many communities that border the river, both in the urban core as well as upriver.

EPA has given the Mystic River Watershed a preliminary grade of "D" indicates that water quality meets swimming standards 52% of the time and boating standards 67% of the time. Focused and aggressive actions are necessary to bring this important urban resource back to a condition where it will be used by the community residents safely.

Storm water runoff is a significant problem throughout the Mystic Watershed. During dry periods -- meaning that there has been no significant rainfall for three days -- boating standards were met 79 percent of the time in 2006, and swimming standards were met 59 percent of the time. During and after rainstorms (the day of a storm and the next two days), however, boating standards were met only 32 percent of the time, and swimming standards only 30 percent of the time. Because the effects of a storm linger for several days, the river can be heavily contaminated even on a sunny day.

EPA will bring the same level of commitment and focus to its work to improve water quality in the Mystic Watershed as the Agency has provided to the Charles River since 1996. Working with our state and local partners, as well as dedicated citizens, EPA will continue to take appropriate actions to improve water quality based on data and findings of ongoing sampling, investigations, and interactions with local watershed and community groups, watershed municipalities, and other state agencies and public organizations.

“The report card will focus much-needed attention on water quality in the Mystic,” said Caroline Broderick, Executive Director of the Mystic River Watershed Association. “Huge amounts of time and money have been spent cleaning up the Boston Harbor and the Charles River and their water quality has improved dramatically as a result. Now it is the Mystic’s turn.”

"It is great that EPA will be putting the same kind of resources into the Mystic River Watershed as they have invested in the Charles River. This is the start of something great and we can't wait to be a part of it," said Roseann T. Bongiovanni, City of Chelsea District 3 Councilor and Council President.

"We have been working on environmental justice issues for years for communities along the Chelsea Creek, and we look forward to working with EPA to improve water quality and make all the rivers in the Mystic River Watershed safe and clean for residents," remarked Stacey Chacker, Director of Community Building & Environment, Neighborhood of Affordable Housing.

When assessing water quality to assign a grade to the Mystic River Watershed, EPA will use similar criteria as for the Charles River Initiative, as follows:
A – meet swimming and boating standards nearly all of the time
B -- meet swimming and boating standards most of the time
C -- meet swimming standards some of the time, and boating standards most of the time
D -- meet swimming and boating standards some of the time
F -- fail swimming and boating standards most of the time

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