Categories: News

Boston Harbor’s Water, Including Winthrop Beach, Once Again Ranked Among the Safest in the Country

Save the Harbor/Save the Bay released their 2023 Beach Season Water Quality Report Card at a press conference with Democratic Whip Congresswoman Katherine Clark, DCR Commissioner Brian Arrigo, and other local and state leaders at Revere Beach on Monday.

This year’s report card used data from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to survey the water quality of each of the region’s public beaches in Lynn, Nahant, Revere,

Winthrop, East Boston, South Boston, Dorchester, Quincy and Hull.

2023 was the rainiest summer in the Boston area since 1955, resulting in an overall water quality safety rating of 85% for the Boston Harbor area beaches, down from the previous dry year’s 93 percent score which tracks bacteria levels at the Boston Harbor beaches.

Winthrop Beach saw its overall rating drop to 82 percent from 92 percent in the 2022 drier year. The six-year average safety rating for Winthrop still has it with a healthy 92 percent safety rating.

Winthrop State Representative Jeff Turco thanked Clark for her leadership in keeping Revere, Winthrop, and the other harbor beaches clean.

Paraphrasing president Kennedy’s City on a Hill speech, Turco said that Massachusetts does not imitate, it serves as a model to others.

“We look out and we see Deer Island, the cleanest water in the history of the Commonwealth, delivered to the people because of the leadership of our elected officials.”

Turco also spoke of Judge David Mazzone and his role in guiding the cleanup of Boston Harbor when he ruled in 1985 that the MWRA’s discharge of wastewater into Boston Harbor violated the Clean Water Act.

“Even amid all the ecological challenges of last year’s historic rainfall, our beaches were able to persevere and continue welcoming visitors,” said Clark. “That resilience was a policy choice — the result of transformational investments in Boston Harbor. Now, we have to make another choice: mobilizing unprecedented action to brace these treasures against the impacts of climate change.

“That’s why I’m fighting every day to bring home our share of the historic climate investments we’ve enacted under President Biden.”

Save the Harbor hopes their annual report card makes it easy to understand how safe and clean these places are, even as they work to address the effect of sea level rise on recreational beaches

and the impact of increasing storms on water quality in some areas.

The dizzying amount of precipitation amplifies the significant effort still required to raise the standard on some beaches like King’s Beach in Lynn, which scored a record low of 55% in the wet season.

“King’s Beach is an outlier in the Boston area,” said Save the Harbor Executive Director Chris Mancini. “It’s a difficult and complex infrastructure challenge that has required dozens of meetings between stakeholders at every level of community and government. We’re very lucky to have such a committed, collaborative group from Lynn, Swampscott, the state and the federal government focused on trying to turn this beach around.”

Arrigo said the DCR is committed to ensuring the beaches are safe, clean and swimmable spaces for families and residents to cool down at.

“Despite last year’s record rainfall, our Metro Boston beaches continue to be some of the cleanest in the country,” said Arrigo. “Throughout the summer, DCR conducts regular water quality testing at all of our waterfronts, and we work diligently with our partners at the Department of Public Health to post the results to our website and Park Alerts Page as quickly as possible. We’re grateful to our partners like Save the Harbor and the legislators on the Metro Beaches Commission for their support in ensuring our beaches are welcoming places and our residents have clean water for recreation.”

Save the Harbor Deputy Director Kristen Barry noted that in urban infrastructure, an inch of rain can quickly flush out bacteria that builds up in drains and stormwater pipes, making some days where it is unsafe to swim.

“That bacteria is the main public health concern – the good news is we have a 9-foot tide cycle twice a day and within 24 hours our beaches are again as clean as ever,” said Barry.

Currently the beaches use a posting and flagging system to alert the public to high bacteria levels. But the best technology available takes 24 hours to return results, meaning by the time the posting goes up, the information is already out of date.

“Until technology can catch up, our best advice is to follow the 24-hour rule and simply wait a day after a significant rainfall before returning to water,” said Mancini. “Except in South Boston where you can swim every day of the year. In the meantime, the Report Card has been a great tool to show the great overall quality of our urban beaches. We hope it will give people the confidence to get out and enjoy our spectacular state beaches.”

Transcript Staff

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