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On the River Today
Mini Current on the River Today

Cyanobacteria bloom in the lower Charles River


A cyanobacteria bloom has been reported in the Charles River downstream of the Boston University Bridge.

Based on visual observations made on Friday, July 28th and Monday, July 31st indicating the presence of cyanobacteria at levels likely exceeding Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) guidelines, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has issued a cyanobacteria bloom advisory for the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge for the area below the Boston University Bridge. Cyanobacteria are naturally-occurring organisms found in rivers and lakes that are capable of producing toxins and can quickly multiply in response to nutrient pollution and warm, stagnant water. Public health officials recommend that people and pets avoid contact with water in areas of cyanobacteria concentration and rinse thoroughly in the event of contact. Learn more

CRWA is working closely with local and state public health and parks agencies to monitor and address the situation. The water will be retested weekly until cyanobacteria levels are within acceptable limits. CRWA will post updated information when the advisory is lifted or if there are any changes to the conditions of this recreational closure.

CRWA calls for Exelon to offset water withdrawals


Last week the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) issued a draft decision approving the water supply plan for the proposed Exelon power plant in Medway. The decision requires that Exelon partially mitigate an additional withdrawal of 30,000 gallons of water per day from its onsite well with a single stormwater recharge project. Stormwater recharge captures rainwater and returns it to the ground to replenish groundwater supplies. The required recharge project would recharge only 3,571 gallons per day on an annual average. The decision also requires Exelon to monitor groundwater levels in adjacent wetlands. 

While recognizing the benefit of the groundwater monitoring and recharge project, CRWA believes the draft decision fails to protect wetlands, Hopping Brook, and habitat from the impacts of this increased withdrawal. The Upper Charles River Watershed is already highly stressed due to current water withdrawals that contribute to low stream flows, a situation that will only worsen with climate change. Exelon should be required to offset its water withdrawals to protect water resources.

CRWA proposed 6 sites for stormwater recharge projects and submitted comments on the draft decision during the EFSB proceedings. The EFSB will hold a hearing on August 4th before issuing a final decision. Read more about the preliminary decision and stakeholders' reactions in the Milford Daily News. 

Greening Boston Public Schools


 School yards at five Boston Public Schools are getting a dose of green to support a cleaner Charles River. Rain gardens, bioswales and other green infrastructure will capture and filter polluted runoff while serving as an educational tool for teachers and students. Construction and planting are now complete at the Irving School in Roslindale and construction has begun at the Hernandez School in Roxbury. This project is a collaboration between Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) and Boston Public Schools (BPS). In addition to CRWA, other partners include Horsley Witten Group, Offshoots, and Kristin Metz. 

CRWA is working with Kristin Metz to develop a science curriculum focused on stormwater pollution that will allow teachers to use the new green infrastructure in their school yards as a living lab to teach their students about ecology, the water cycle, and pollution. The new green school yards will be educational, interactive and offer some much needed greenery to the urban landscape! These green school yards can serve as models for other Boston schools as well as schools in surrounding districts.

Last month, CRWA attended Wellness Day at Ellis Elementary School in Roxbury to chat with teachers and students about the rain gardens and other green infrastructure that will soon be built at the school. The other two schools in this program are the Jackson Mann K-8 School in Allston and Edward M. Academy for Health Careers (grades 9-12) in the Fenway. 

Weakening environmental protections

Scott Pruitt

The Trump Administration is weakening environmental protections and lessening the role of science in decision making. The Union of Concerned Scientists recently released a report documenting these actions by the Trump Administration. 

READ MORE: Sidelining Science Since Day One

CRWA is deeply concerned about efforts by the U.S. EPA to weaken the federal Clean Water Act. The day before the Massachusetts Municipal Stormwater Permit under the Clean Water Act was scheduled to take effect, EPA announced that it was delaying the permit for one year. This permit requires municipalities to better manage stormwater runoff to prevent it from entering rivers and streams. An editorial in the Boston Globe on Sunday makes the case for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection implementing this permit, since it was issued jointly by Mass DEP and EPA.

In another attack on the Clean Water Act, the EPA proposes to repeal the Clean Water Rule that clarified protections for headwaters, seasonal streams and wetlands. The public has until August 28th to submit comments

CRWA's work is critical to protecting the environment and the law given these assaults. Our legal advocacy is fundamental to the progress made locally on clean water. CRWA's science team makes a difference every day collecting and analyzing water quality data which in turn enables us to work with state and local agencies on the very real things we can do to protect the environment and prepare our communities for climate change. CRWA has turned 25 years of research science into a prescription for our region, indeed for any city, to build resilience to drought and protect against flooding while restoring the Charles. With your help, we can suffer the indignities of this environmental administrator and continue to succeed. Consider a donation today to support this important work

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Charles River Watershed Association's mission is to use science, advocacy and the law to protect, preserve and enhance the Charles River and its watershed. For more information about CRWA and our current programs, please visit