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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMB Water Watch Works to Clean Boston Rivers

Over the summer, we were given graphic, new evidence that Massachusetts’ water quality is getting worse. In July, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a warning that mercury pollution in Massachusetts had gotten so dangerous, that women and children under age 12 should not eat most freshwater fish, statewide. The mercury pollution is attributed primarily to coal burning power plants as well as improper disposal of batteries and mercury thermometers. Mercury can cause damage to the development of children’s nervous systems and lead to behavioral and learning problems.

Mercury pollution is by no means a new problem in the state, nor is it the only problem we are facing. All across Massachusetts, development along waterways has made it easier for trash, oil, and other pollutants to enter our rivers and streams.

One of the best examples of these problems is the Neponset River, which runs along the southern border of Boston and empties into the Harbor right near UMass Boston. The Neponset has a long history of industry and pollution, and many sections of it have been fenced off, making it nearly impossible for neighbors to know the river is right across the street from them. Luckily, the Neponset is also an example of a river that we have a chance to reclaim. Dedicated community members have been working hard to turn the Neponset from a hidden public health risk, into a great resource for the communities along it.

UMass Boston has been working on this project through Massachusetts Community Water Watch, a student group founded by MASSPIRG in partnership with AmeriCorps. Water Watch has been working with these community groups to make the river accessible and enjoyable to use. Last year, Water Watch worked with Mattapan residents and the Kennedy Playground Revitalization Committee to reopen a small park adjacent to the river and convert it to a community garden. The community garden is also connected to a former tire station, which Water Watch helped to clean and convert into additional community space.

Over the summer, Water Watch and KLUB, a youth program at ABCD’s Mattapan Family Service Center, erected a mural showing the rivers past pollution problems, and its potential as a site for community activities. The work in Mattapan has coincided with work all along the river’s length, to improve access and raise awareness. The role of UMass Boston students in this project is critical to its success, because of the important role of the school and its students in the community.

“For a greening project to be truly successful, you need to have participation from the government, outside organizations and the communities involved,” says Steven Busby, president of the Kennedy Playground Revitalization Committee. “With all the environmental problems, these projects are ongoing and one needs to remain ever vigilant.”

This year, Water Watch will be continuing its work along the Neponset River. Starting with the Annual Kennedy Park Festival on September 8, they will be working to continue to raise awareness along the waterway. Projects will include a series of canoe trips down the river, as well as river cleanups and education in local schools. In addition, they will be compiling and releasing the results of a stream survey preformed by UMass Boston students last year, in which they surveyed the length of the river, compiling information on potential pollution problems and accessibility. There are many opportunities for getting involved in these and other Water Watch projects this semester, either as a volunteer or through a for-credit internship.

For more information, please write to [email protected], call 747-0049 or stop by our office on Wheatley fourth floor, across from the Queer Student Union.