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MWRA Writing Contest Winners 2004 - 2005
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

Honorable Mention Grades 9-12
by Matthew King, Grade 11
Wilmington High School, Wilmington

John Wood, teacher
Eric Tracy, principal

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Constant Testing

Boston Harbor was once a beautiful sight to see and now despite its flaws it is on the way to once again being that beautiful sight. Several methods are used to keep Boston Harbor clean. There are those methods that do the physical cleaning and then there are those that maintain the cleanliness. The methods to maintain cleanliness are just as, if not more, important than the methods to perform the cleaning. One method that I find to be extremely important is maintaining the cleanliness is constant testing of the water.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority constantly monitors the quality of the water in over fifty locations in the harbor and the harbor's three largest rivers. This monitoring is conducted year-round in each of the fifty regions, with the most intense sampling in the spring and summer when the production of bacteria is found to be at a higher rate. Mostly the water in the rivers that contribute to the harbor have a poorer water quality than the water in the harbor itself. This reflects the impact that the urban storms and sewer flows have on rivers. The testing provides for moderate algal levels and water clarity are essential to the ecosystem of the healthy harbor. Constantly testing the water and measuring the levels of temperature, bacteria, algae, water clarity, dissolved oxygen, nutrients and suspended solids aid in maintaining the cleanliness of the water.

The measuring of the bacteria and suspended solids is very important due to the fact that many people can become sick due to the levels of bacteria in these suspended solids. Such types of bacteria found in suspended solids are E.Coli and Enterococcus. E.Coli is found in human and animal waste and becomes present in the harbor due to storm runoff and combined sewer overflows. Enterococcus is a kind of bacteria that is present in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and is considered to be an excellent indicator of human sewage. If the presence of these is indicated in the testing, that shows that the proper measures are not being taken in the cleaning process.

In the testing, MWRA also checks for algae and water clarity. The overabundance of algae or an algae bloom is caused by high chlorophyll concentrations. These algae blooms can cause the depletion of bottom-water dissolved oxygen, reduced water clarity and impaired recreational uses. The algae levels and the levels of the suspended solids affect the water clarity of the harbor and the rivers. Secchi disks are used to approximate the transparency of the water. Secchi disks are white or black-and-white instruments that are lowered into the water and are used to gauge water clarity by measuring the depth at which they can no longer be seen. The larger the depths at which a secchi disk can be seen indicate good water clarity while smaller depths indicate poorer water clarity.

I believe that constantly testing the water is the most important measure that must be taken in order to maintain the cleanliness of Boston Harbor. I believe this because the testing indicates the amount of cleaning that must be done in order to keep the harbor clean. This testing allows the water to be thoroughly cleaned and maintained so that the cleaning will not have to be done for as long a period of time as it may take. Someday in testing I hope we can manage to also clean the rivers so that the harbor can constantly remain clean. Hopefully this constant testing will someday make the harbor a beautiful sight to see once again.

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