Opinion

The Podium

Let’s clean up Mystic River

DAVID L. RYAN/Globe Staff Photo

DAVID L. RYAN/Globe Staff Photo

While the famous Red Sox anthem “Dirty Water’’ might still be a local favorite as we celebrate our beloved team, the underlying theme of a polluted Charles River is fortunately no longer relevant. Boston Harbor and the Charles River are national examples of successful clean-ups of vital waterways.

What were once regarded as unsafe, polluted and forgotten, are now the centerpieces of economic, recreational and educational activity. In both of these cases, local activists, businesses, elected officials and government regulators came together to develop a comprehensive plan to realize a vision for the future. They then took action and as a result today we can swim, run, duck boat, cruise or sail the harbor. This has encouraged responsible development that maximizes these wonderful natural resources.

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However, our work isn’t done yet. The Mystic River, which runs throughout our districts, offers the same promise as the Charles River and Boston Harbor – unfortunately, it has a long way to go to reach its potential. The Mystic River Watershed Association as been fighting for years to bring the Mystic back to life, but the effort has not gained enough steam among policy makers. Consequently, the resources necessary to restore the river are still lacking.

The EPA’s most recent water quality report card gives the Mystic River an unacceptable grade of “D.” To push for a meaningful process to address this problem, we co-sponsored a bill introduced by State Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville) to establish a Mystic River Watershed Water Quality Commission. The commission, would be co-chaired by the House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture and would be comprised of several key stakeholders. It would be charged with the investigation and study of ways to improve the conditions while determining the feasibility of bringing the water quality in the Mystic River watershed to a level that supports fishing, boating, swimming and wildlife.

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While the water quality of the Mystic River watershed has improved, the existence of contaminated sediments and waterborne pollutants make the development of the recreational potential of the Mystic River watershed problematic. Therefore, the Commission, if established, will need to measure a number of factors including, but not limited to:

· Collection of data concerning sediment volume and quality;

· Identification of technologies, and engineering or environmental solutions necessary, with an estimate of the approximate cost, to determine the removal of toxic sediments from the Mystic River watershed;

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· The collection of existing data concerning bacteria, viruses, toxins, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and all other water quality and environmental parameters that may affect human exposure to water;

· And, the identification of sites for the development of public access including swimming and boating areas within the Mystic River watershed.

The bill is making progress and is currently in the House Ways and Means Committee, and we will continue to push for its passage in the Senate. If passed, this legislation will be a catalyst for action on the Mystic River. It is time that we all came together to build the vision, find the resources, and prioritize the clean-up and revitalization of this important local asset.

Sal DiDomenico is a state senator for the Middlesex and Suffolk District since May 2010. Pat Jehlen is a state senator for the 2nd Middlesex District.
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