Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Department of Conservation and Recreation Poisoning the Charles River?

Update, 8/31/06: The Cambridge Conservation Commission hearing mentioned below is now 9/11/06 at 7 pm, Cambridge City Hall Annex, corner of Broadway and Inman Street in Cambridge.

The DCR is apparently trying to get somebody to support its application. Since their reprehensible front organization the Charles River Conservancy was coming that night anyway, the hearing is now 9/11/06.


This morning, WBZ Radio in Boston reported the sighting of possibly poisonous algae in the Charles River on the harbor side of the Mass. Ave. Bridge.

The Charles River White Geese have traditionally lived a half a mile east and west of the BU Bridge which is the next bridge after the Mass. Ave. Bridge going away from the harbor, perhaps a mile or so further west.

The Museum of Science mentioned in Marilyn's report below is perhaps half a mile from the harbor and built on the Charles River Dam. Going outbound (westerly) from there are the Longfellow Bridge, then the Mass. Ave. Bridge, then the B.U. Bridge.

Marilyn reports:

I suspect the poisonous algae bloom by the Museum of
Science is directly related to fertilizer at the new
"Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox Fields at Lederman Park."
Lederman Park is on the Boston side of the river by
MGH and the Longfellow Bridge, i.e., just upriver from
the Museum of Science. The "Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox
Fields" are regulation Little League fields
constructed in a DCR "public-private partnership."
[For more information on the fields and the DCR's
private partners see]

So there are now 6 acres of new turf, installed by the
DCR, on the banks of the Charles.

We know that one precipitating cause of algae bloom is
fertilizer runoff. Given the extraordinary rains
earlier in the summer, there was probably runoff from
the "Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox Fields at Lederman Park"
despite the newly installed drainage and irrigation
systems there. Whether the 6 acres of sod had been
treated with fertilizer before installation, whether
they were treated with fertilizer after, are questions
I think the DEP and appropriate public health
authorities need to ask.

I don't know of other large tracts of riverbank that
would have been treated with fertilizer.

The DCR does say all that rain led to a fungus
infection now killing the newly installed turf at the "Teeddy Ebersol's Red Sox Fields at Lederman Park." Consequently they asked for, and received
permission from, the Boston Conservation Commission to
apply "Tartan," a fungicide, on August 3, 2006.

So a further question is whether the DCR may have
applied "Tartan" between August 3 and the bloom.
"Tartan" is toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates, and
98% stable in water. The manufacturer's data sheet
says, "Do not apply directly to water, to areas where
surface water is present . . . . Drift and runoff from
treated areas may be hazardous to fish/aquatic
organisms in adjacent sites. . . . Do not apply when
weather conditions favor runoff or drift" (Bayer
Environmental Science, Material Safety Data Sheet,
Tartan Fungicide, Revision Date: 02/09/2006). Killing
off fish and aquatic organisms with runoff or drift
from "Tartan" into the Charles at "Teddy Ebersol's Red
Sox Fields at Lederman Park" might contribute to algae

Interestingly, the "Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox Fields at
Lederman Park" seem to be the prototype for the ball
fields the DCR and Cambridge plan for Magazine Beach.
Remember, the Cambridge Conservation Commission will
consider whether to allow this project at its upcoming
August 28, 2006 meeting at 7 pm at the McCusker
Center, 344 Broadway (corner Inman and Broadway).

Like the fields slated to be destroyed at Magazine
Beach, the fields where "Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox Fields at Lederman
Park" now are were also in the Mass Wetlands Protection Act's
category of "bordering land subject to flooding." The
Boston project replaced 6 acres of waterfront grass
with gravel, topsoil, an irrigation system, and sod,
plus regulation Little League fields, including
extensive chain-link fences and many klieg lights on
60-foot high poles.

This is essentially the plan for Magazine Beach's 7
acres: dig up wet dirt and grass, replace with
gravel, dry dirt, sod, and an irrigation system, and
add chain-link fences. All that's missing from the
plans are the klieg lights (for now).

The DCR says Magazine Beach would ordinarily be rich
habitat for wildlife, but it's already been so
developed by humans that it no longer is. As a casual
visit shows, there's plenty of wildlife--Canada geese,
gulls, ducks, hawks--at Magazine Beach all year round.
It is the pending Cambridge-DCR plans for the place
that will themselves destroy its ongoing value as
habitat, however.

The DCR began to destroy Lederman Park as habitat
several years ago when it sought to "upgrade" the ball
fields there. The DCR specifically cited geese and
goose droppings at Lederman Park as a problem in 2004
when it asked for, and got, US Fish and Wildlife's
permission to poison Canada goose eggs and otherwise
expel the animals from the lower basin.

Similarly the DCR and Cambridge have worked since 2004
to expel the Charles River White Geese from their
primary source of food, the "bordering land subject to
flooding," at Magazine Beach prior to the pending
"upgrade" of the ball fields there.

One last observation. Last year the Charles River
Watershed Association declared the lower
Charles--between Lederman Park and the Museum of
Science--to be swimmable. The water was clean and a
perfect temperature. This year, after construction of
"Teddy Ebersol's Red Sox Fields at Lederman Park," we
have poisonous algae in the very same place.

Would the appropriate authorities please give us an
honest investigation of the possible link between
chemicals applied to land within 100' of the river and
the algae bloom?

Marilyn Wellons