The snow is melting. Soon, Constitution Beach will be ready for swimmers. Photo by Jeremy Lindgren.
By Yining Chen and Rachael Peart
In his bright orange swimming cap Adam Homaki, an East Boston resident, ran to the shore, to the finish and to victory in the men’s division of the one-mile swim. Although Homaki was tired, he was happy doing something he loves: swimming.
As an open-water swimmer, Homaki loves the Boston harbor, but he has concerns about the water quality, especially at Constitution Beach. It is one of the hottest summer places for Eastie locals. In summer, beachgoers would take their beach chairs, umbrellas and a good book to spend a whole day at the beach. Children would build sandcastles and giggle as they are knocked over by two-foot high waves.
Constitution Beach was a true summer heaven until a few years ago. Due to the development of the city, Constitution Beach is not as joyful place anymore.
“Just a few years ago even a small summer rain would have forced us to cancel this event due to pollution from storm water,” Bruce Berman, a spokesperson from Save the Harbor, said to the East Boston Times.
The water surrounding Boston is not as beautiful on the inside as it may look on the outside. Local water has a plethora of problems, some of which are unknown to residents.
The Mystic River Watershed Association, a volunteer-run organization, removed 3500 baskets of the invasive water chesnut from the Mystic River in 2011. When a water chestnuts decomposes, it releases a chemical that leads to low levels of oxygen in the water and the killing off of different aquatic species in the waters. This poses another problem for those who fish for a living or simply for recreation. When water chestnuts spread, it makes other activities such as boating or canoeing near impossible. In 2014, the association cleared 90 percent of the invasive water chestnut from the Mystic River.
View of the Atlantic from East Boston. Photo by Yining Chen
These efforts would not be as successful if it were not for the volunteers of these and similar organizations. “We engage thousands of volunteers each year through our various environmental restoration programs, to promote local environmental advocacy and to advance successful climate change adaptation strategies,” EkOngKar Singh Khalsa, executive director of the Mystic River Watershed Association said, “it’s individual’s voice to help MRWA have significant impact in the environment. ”
Homaki has also participated in clean up actions in the past few years. In 2013, Homaki and other competitors raised more than $5,000 to benefit Save the Harbor / Save the Bay and the Massachusetts Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. Then in 2014, he and 209 swimmers dove into outer New Bedford Harbor to show their support for a clean and healthy Buzzards Bay, raising more than $100,000 to support the Coalition’s education, conservation, and advocacy work.
Due to a massive cleanup effort in the last 20 years and participation by organizations and individuals, Boston Harbor went from one of the most polluted to one of the cleanest harbors in the nation. Constitution Beach was ranked in the top 10 cleanest beaches in the metro Boston area.
Water clean up is a long-term process, and the efforts will continue on. Charles River Watershed Association, another local organization, will be hosting an annual cleanup on April 25 in celebration of Earth Day. This clean up is a part of American Rivers’ National River Cleanup, which has removed over 4 million pounds of waste from America’s waterways, according to the association website.
Elisabeth Cianciola, the Aquatic Scientist for the Charles River Watershed Association says, the best thing that anyone can do for their local water is to “use environmentally-friendly property management techniques, actively participate in local and state government processes to ensure that elected officials and local planning boards and conservation commissions make environmentally-friendly decisions, and, of course, support the work of local non-profit organizations.”
The snow and ice may be turning into water and running down the street, but if residents continue to mishandle their waste, some might not be able to enjoy the simple beauty of sitting at local beaches — like Constitution Beach — in the near future.