/Charles River Gets Top Grade, Still Needs Improvement

Charles River Gets Top Grade, Still Needs Improvement

Though The Standells may “love that dirty water”, they may be interested to know that the Charles River recently received an “A-” bacterial water quality rating from the Environmental Protection Agency.

There are some experts, however, who say that the A- rating does not tell the whole story.

Robert Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA), said there is still work to be done to make the Charles environmentally sound.

“The Charles, according to the EPA, is the cleanest urban river in the country,” said Zimmerman. “So we should get an ‘A’ when you grade us against all other urban rivers. However, that doesn’t actually mean the river is clean.”

The CRWA, a non-profit organization devoted to keeping the Charles clean, proposes new ideas and techniques that may further improve water quality. An educational component also teaches the community about climate change and how to properly interpret data.

Zimmerman stressed that Boston area residents should not be lulled into believing that the environmental hazards of the water are completely resolved. He said that data and computer models calculating the future conditions of climate change are not necessarily accurate.

“So far the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] models have missed on the conservative side what’s actually happening in the world,” said Zimmerman. “Meaning that the IPCC is anticipating that things are a lot better than they actually are… We are beginning to experience consequences far more rapidly with greater severity than what we had anticipated.”

The CRWA has identified some key issues affecting the Charles, one being wastewater, which is a roadblock to restoring the natural flow of the river.

Wastewater has been filtered the same way since the 19th century. The CRWA has proposed a new technique for filtering and repurposing this wastewater, which has the possibility to be both more environmentally and cost efficient.

According to the CRWA, Community Water and Energy Resource Centers, or CWERCs, take wastewater and filter the organic material commonly known as “waste”. This byproduct is fed to bugs which decompose it to produce methane gas. This methane gas is very similar to natural gas, and while half of the gas produced is used to power the CWERC, the other half can be sold. The then filtered water could be used for anything besides drinking or bathing.

For Charles River abutters, Zimmerman advised it is most important to stay educated from a reliable source, and use that knowledge to elect officials who will be a driving force towards reforming our environment and bodies of water.

“We need to invest in change,” Zimmerman underscored. “If we don’t insist on this, it won’t happen.”

For more information, visit crwa.org.