The Charles River Initiative
In 1995, EPA launched an ambitious effort make the Charles River both fishable and swimmable. Thanks to partners in numerous federal, state and local agencies as well as nonprofit groups, private institutions and citizens, the Clean Charles River Initiative has improved water quality in the river.
Using sound science, cutting-edge technologies and strong targeted enforcement, EPA and its partners have determined the causes of pollution and poor water quality in the River.
Since 1995, municipalities and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) have made remarkable strides to improve water quality by reducing illicit sewage discharges to storm drain systems and Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), respectively.
The municipalities of the lower Charles River (including: Boston, Cambridge , Newton, Brookline Watertown and Waltham) have reduced sewage-contaminated stormwater flows through illicit storm drain connections. That effort has eliminated in excess of 48,000 gallons of sewage contaminated stormwater flowing into the River per day since 2004. This is in addition to the more than one million gallons per day of sewage contaminated stormater that has been eliminated from municipal storm drain systems from Watertown to Boston harbor, an effort that began with the launch of the Charles cleanup effort in 1995.
Sewage discharges from CSOs to the river declined significantly as a result of the 2005 settlement between EPA and the MWRA. As a result of various CSO projects throughout the lower Charles (in many cases, eliminating CSOs entirely, MWRA has reduced CSO discharges by an impressive 99.5%).
We have made significant progress targeting bacterial sources of pollution in The River. But, there continue to be problems with excessive amounts of nutrients entering the river, especially phosphorus. See the Environmental Challenges for updated overview of these latest challenges.
The improvements in water quality on the Charles River are a direct result of sound science. EPA, U.S. Department of Interior Exit, U.S. Geological Survey Exit, Mass DEP Exit, Charles River Watershed Association Exit, Rocky Mountain Institute Exitand New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission Exithave conducted studies and produced reports analyzing the River.
Please see Reports and Links for a more complete view of reports on the Charles River.
Today we have a river that is safe for recreational boating virtually all of the time, and safe for swimming 70% of the time. It is a river that is now a resource for an active wind surfing community, an annual swim race and catch and release fishing. Indeed, we are much closer to the original goals of making the Charles both fishable and swimmable.
EPA uses the Charles River Report Card to measure and evaluate progress towards meeting the State of Massachusetts bacterial water quality standards for swimming and boating.
Agency scientists evaluate water quality data collected by the Charles River Watershed Association at ten locations in the lower Charles River. EPA then determines how often these samples meet Massachusetts water quality standards for swimming and boating to evaluate our progress towards the overall project goals.
|Year||Overall Grade||% Meets Standards||% Meets Standards in Dry Weather Conditions||% Meets Standards in Wet Weather Conditions|
|The grade is based on a comparison with previous years and general trends. Given that the grades are based on a limited set of data, some annual fluctuations depending on weather are expected. Figures represent the percentage of time that state bacterial standards are met.|
Charles River Pollution Control District Pays Penalty for Clean Water Violations
International Award Recognizes Successful Ongoing Work to Clean the Charles River
At Annual Swim Event in Charles River, Yearly Water Quality Remains Good; EPA Grade from 2010 Monitoring: B+
New Discharge Permit for Mirant Kendall Power Plant in Cambridge, Mass. Significantly Advances Protections for Charles River
Charles River Report Card: Continued Progress Cleaning 'That Dirty Water'
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to Implement Sharp Reductions in Sewage Contamination of Charles River
EPA Orders Four Municipalities to Remove Illicit Discharges into the Charles River
"Love that Dirty Water" No Longer Applies to the Charles River; Crews in Head of the Charles Regatta Can Expect Cleaner Water
Public Hearing on Monday in Cambridge on Kendall Station Discharge Permit
EPA and DEP issue draft water discharge permit for Kendall power plant in Cambridge
NSTAR Agrees to $63,380 Settlement for Oil Spill Violations in Charles River
Charles River 'Report Card' Grade Drops to a "B-" -- Clean Up Efforts Continue; Outlying Communities Challenged to Match Boston and Cambridge's Efforts
EPA Files Complaint Against NSTAR For Oil Spills From Transmission Pipes
EPA Announces $400,000 to Improve Water Quality in Charles River
EPA Announces $800,000 to Improve Fish Habitat and Water Quality in Narragansett Bay
EPA Selects Charles River Watershed Association for Innovative Water Trading Project
EPA Honors Watershed Group, Students and Citizen Activist for Charles River Work
EPA, CZM, CRWA, and Save the Harbor/Save the Bay Promote Clean Boating on the Charles River During the Fourth of July Celebration
Charles River Earns a "B" Grade for Water Quality; Stormwater Pollution & Individual Action Priorities for Future Improvement
EPA Announces New Initiatives Aimed at Restoring the Charles River
Charles River Earns Another "B" Grade, Cleanup Halfway to Swimmable Goal
MIT Commits to Three Environmental Projects and $150,000 Civil Penalty to Settle EPA Violations
USGS Studies Show Extent of Sediment Contamination and Saltwater Impacts on Charles River
EPA Announces that Rowers will Compete in a Charles River Cleaner than in Decades
EPA Settles Clean Water Act Case with Medway-Based Pollution Control District; Agreement Benefits Charles River and Franklin Well Field
EPA Proposes $134,580 Penalty Against City of Watertown for Environmental Violations
EPA's Initiative to Make the Charles River Swimmable by 2005 Wins National Recognition
EPA Gives Charles River a C-Plus and Announces New Coalition of Private Institutions
EPA Proposes $75,000 Penalty for Wastewater Treatment Violations on Charles River
Good News for Charles River Rowers: The River is Getting Cleaner
EPA Settlement with Genzyme Requires Water Quality Studies in Charles River
EPA Report Card on Charles River Shows Water Quality Improvement
EPA Details Aggressive Pollution Prevention and Assistance Strategy for the Charles River