The Water Closet for January 29,2016
[pullquote]”With more rain and snow to come there will be more heavy metals, salt, oil, fossil fuel combustion products, and tire particles going into the river and reservoir, both important sources of potable water and habitat for wildlife.”[/pullquote]The other night at a Middleton Stream Team meeting, new member George Cumming reported witnessing a large puddle of brine being plowed in a “rooster tail” like plume into the Ipswich River off the Route 114 bridge. The bridge’s concrete and steel, like that in many of the state’s bridges has badly eroded and corroded. Salts greatly speed up the process. Cumming and listeners were understandably worried about large amounts of salt going in the river.
Just an hour’s paddle down river will bring you to the state’s Route 62 bridge where large amounts of road runoff all the way down from the Essex County Jail enters the river and has for many years. That bridge is also in bad shape, so bad Jersey barriers have been placed to keep the bridge’s north wall and cars from going overboard. Four-feet of road width on a curve on the bridge has been lost. Not only is the bridge in danger, so too are drivers passing on this much traveled road. Both routes 114 and 62 bridges, in the care of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) have been in noticeably rough shape for a long time. While gas prices are falling many bridges are in danger of doing so around the state. Why not raise gasoline taxes and take care of essential business? What can be more important for safety, travel, and commerce than a community’s infrastructure? For us the answer is water; and good infrastructure designed to protect it from contaminated runoff. We’re told by too few candidates for public office that our decaying infrastructure is a serious problem country-wide.
Hearing of a puddle of brine being plowed into the river by a state truck reminded one old Closeteer of a half-mile long pavement/road shoulder funnel draining to a short swale that carries road runoff directly into the adjacent Emerson Bog reservoir off Route 114, three miles northwest of the Ipswich River Bridge. In early spring 2009 hundreds of fish were found dead in the reservoir below the swale. The Middleton Conservation Commission (CC) reported this to the then Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD) and asked for a vegetated retention pond to slow and filter the runoff water before it enters the large shallow reservoir. The CC also complained to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and to the Water Division – Danvers Public Works responsible for the reservoir. That was seven years ago, nothing has been done.1 With more rain and snow to come there will be more heavy metals, salt, oil, fossil fuel combustion products, and tire particles going into the river and reservoir, both important sources of potable water and habitat for wildlife.
This neglect of our essential local infrastructure pales in comparison to what is happening now in Flint, Michigan. Last year to save money the city shifted from Lake Huron as a source of water to the more acidic Flint River. Alas, the corrosive water from the river is leaching lead out of the water supply and plumbing systems’ pipes. Water with dangerous lead drawn from taps is going into the mouths and then the developing brains of young humans. Even the allowed below 5 parts per billion (ppb) is of concern to medical folks who say there is no safe level of lead in potable water. Some Flint houses are receiving water containing thousands ppb in this poor city. Damage done to young brains is irreversible. In some, symptoms won’t show up for a decade or more. In the news for the past week we’ve heard about and watched the horrors in Flint where state and city officials are being called into account. We won’t go on further about this; the media are daily reporting the details and potential human toll.
The Middleton Stream Team’s plea for something so obviously important as protecting clean water and wetlands seems shameful to have to even mention. Healthy wetlands and water worldwide should be at the top of all governments’ priority lists. Rachel Carson strongly urged this mid last century when she angrily wrote Silent Spring. Stream Teamer Roger Talbot reminded us the other day to reread chapter 4 entitled “Surface Waters and Underground Seas”.2 Carson learned through years of study that safe waters were lower in importance than the profits on the priority lists of industry and agriculture. Governments were ignoring abuses. She, too vividly for many, proved that we were poisoning animals including ourselves via our water and air. Long overdue actions like the Federal Clean Air and Water Acts followed. To our amazement and disappointment many of our present presidential candidates belittle almost all environmental regulations, if they mention them at all. One shrill cheerleader who has resurfaced would have us “drill baby drill”! I’ll bet such clueless, irresponsible people would have us “spray baby spray” indiscriminately. “Regulations interfere with our freedoms”, many loudly scream.
Clean water for all including plants and other animals should take priority over almost all else. Excess salts and unnatural chemicals in pavement runoff should not be allowed in our ground water, reservoirs, wetlands, or oceans. Those who think at all have realized this for almost two centuries since man first started bringing oil to the surface and making new chemicals that did not naturally evolve. Wise men and women have known about the importance of clean water for millennia. Governments must make sure both rich and poor have equal access to it.
1 Middleton Stream Team. The Water Closet: Ipswich River Watershed and Beyond . Essay “Death Just off the Highway”, pages 161-162
2 Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring (Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston) 1962
_______________________________________________________________________________WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATIONFOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||Oct||Nov||Dec||Jan|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||4.40||4.55||4.12||3.40|
|2015/2016 Central Watershed Actual||3.11||2.49||4.72||2.7**as of Jan 25|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Jan 25, 2016 Normal . . . 60 CFS Current Rate . . . 13 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Dec..
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Jan.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584