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A GIS Analysis of Boston Harbor and the Charles River Boston, Massachusetts

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Title: A GIS Analysis of Boston Harbor and the Charles River Boston, Massachusetts


1
A GIS Analysis of Boston Harbor and the Charles
RiverBoston, Massachusetts
  • Amy Townsend-Small
  • GIS in Water Resources
  • Fall 2001

The Boston skyline as seen from the Charles River
2
Historical Background
  • The Boston Tea Party may have been the first
    recorded incident of the pollution of Boston
    Harbor, but unfortunately it wasnt the last.
  • The City of Boston dumped sewage sludge and
    treated sewage into the harbor for over 100
    years.
  • In the 1988 presidential election, the Democratic
    candidate, Michael Dukakis, then governor of
    Massachusetts, was criticized for what Republican
    candidate George Bush called the dirtiest harbor
    in the world.

Artists rendition of the Boston Tea Party, 1773
President Bushs comments led to the creation of
several state agencies to clean up Bostons
waterways. Ill be presenting the results of
those clean-up efforts.
3
Monitoring the Pollution of the Waters of Boston
Harbor
  • In 1998, sewage discharge was stopped at the Nut
    Island STP and its sewage was pipelined to the
    Deer Island STP, where it was discharged into the
    harbor.
  • The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority
    collected the following data before and after the
    transfer
  • Nitrogen concentration
  • Phosphorus concentration
  • Chlorophyll-a concentration
  • Dissolved oxygen saturation
  • Fecal coliform bacteria counts
  • Water clarity

An excess of nutrients like nitrogen and
phosphorus can lead to eutrophication of aquatic
systems, characterized by microalgae blooms and
high dissolved oxygen saturation.
4
Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen in Boston Harbor
Before
After
  • Concentrations of DIN decrease after the transfer
    of sewage effluent to the new site

5
Total Nitrogen in Boston Harbor
Before
After
  • Concentrations of total nitrogen decrease after
    the transfer of sewage effluent to the new site

6
Dissolved Inorganic Phosphorus in Boston Harbor
Before
After
  • Concentrations of DIP increase after the transfer
    of sewage effluent to the new site

7
Total Phosphorus in Boston Harbor
Before
After
  • Concentrations of total phosphorus increase after
    the transfer of sewage effluent to the new site

8
Chlorophyll-a in Boston Harbor
After
Before
  • Standing stocks of chlorophyll-a increased after
    the transfer of sewage effluent to the new site

9
Dissolved Oxygen in Boston Harbor
Before
After
  • Dissolved oxygen decreased in saturation after
    the transfer of sewage effluent to the new site

10
Fecal Coliform in Boston Harbor
Before
After
  • Fecal coliform counts decreased after the
    transfer of sewage effluent to the new site

11
Water Clarity in Boston Harbor
Before
After
  • Water clarity improved after the transfer of
    sewage effluent to the new site

12
Summary of Water Quality Changes in Boston Harbor
  • Phosphorus and chlorophyll-a increased in
    concentration
  • Nitrogen, dissolved oxygen, and fecal coliform
    decreased in concentration, and water clarity
    increased.

Whale watchers in Boston Harbor
13
Heavy Metal Contamination in the Sediments of
Boston Harbor
  • In addition to dumping sewage effluent, Boston
    also disposed of sewage sludge into the harbor
    for over 100 years. In 1991, this practice was
    stopped altogether.
  • Sewage sludge is high in heavy metals such as
    iron, copper, and lead.
  • How has the concentration of these metals in
    sediments changed since 1991?

14
Lead in Boston Harbor Sediments
1991
1998
  • Generally, lead concentrations decreased in the
    former sludge dumping site and increased in the
    site closer to shore.

15
Copper in Boston Harbor Sediments
1991
1998
  • Copper concentrations in the sediments decreased
    in the former sludge dumping site, and copper
    concentrations increased in the site closer to
    shore.

16
Iron in Boston Harbor Sediments
  • Again, iron concentrations decreased in the
    former sludge dumping site and increased in the
    site closer to shore.

17
Summary of Changes in Metal Content of Harbor
Sediments
  • Since the metal content decreased in the former
    sludge dumping site, the cessation of sludge has
    improved harbor conditions. However, there seems
    to be another source of metals to Boston Harbor.

Logan Airport
Charles River
18
Pollution of the Charles River
  • The Charles River is the largest river that
    discharges to Boston Harbor. It is also an
    important recreational resource for the city.
    However, it is dangerous to swim in because of
    high bacteria levels.
  • In 1995, the EPA declared its goal to make the
    Charles swimmable by 2005. Their efforts have
    included picking up trash, the creation of sewage
    treatment plants in towns along the river that
    relied on aging septic systems, and sustainable
    development of communities in the watershed
  • How has water quality changed in the Charles
    River?

19
Total Phosphorus in the Charles River
1997
2000
  • There is a slight increase in total phosphorus
    levels in the Charles River between 1997 and 2000.

20
Total Nitrogen in the Charles River
1997
2000
  • There was a general decrease in nitrogen in the
    Charles River from 1997 to 2000

21
Chlorophyll-a in the Charles River
1997
2000
  • There was a marked decrease in chlorophyll-a
    concentrations from 1997 to 2000

22
Fecal Coliform in the Charles River
1997
2000
  • Fecal coliform levels stayed about the same in
    the Charles River from 1997 to 2000

23
Summary of Changes in Water Quality of the
Charles River
  • There was a slight increase in fecal coliform
    counts and phosphorus in the Charles from 1997 to
    2000.
  • There were major improvements in nitrogen and
    chlorophyll-a levels in the Charles from 1997 to
    2000.

A new bridge, part of Bostons Big Dig, crosses
the Charles downtown
24
References
  • Taylor, D. 2001. Comparison of water quality in
    Boston Harbor before and after inter-island
    transfer. Boston Massachusetts Water Resources
    Authority. Report ENQUAD 2001-09. 104 p.
  •  
  • Zago, C., Giblin, A.E., and Bergamasco, A. 2001.
    Changes in the metal content of surficial
    sediments of Boston Harbor since the cessation of
    sludge discharge. Marine Environmental Research,
    vol. 51, pp. 389-415.
  •  
  • Charles River Watershed Authority, www.crwa.org

A dog enjoys a day by the banks of the Charles
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