Last week’s front-page story in the Reporter (“Tenean Beach lags behind in quality of water,” June 14, 2012) likely came as no surprise to those who have visited Dorchester’s beaches in recent years. The story highlighted a Save the Harbor-Save the Bay report showing that Tenean Beach is one of two in the neighborhood that are bringing up the rear in terms of water pollution over the first half of the year. It’s not a new problem, but rather one that is more pronounced now that most of the city’s beaches are so much better off than they were in decades past.
There have been significant improvements all along the Harbor beaches since the court-mandated clean-up in the 1990s, led by the MWRA, largely ended the periodic dumping of raw sewage into the waters off Boston. Since then, follow-up projects — including one recently completed in South Boston— have sought to close a gap in the shoreline defense by sealing off combined sewer overflows (CSOs) that would dump untreated rainwater and related waste into Dorchester Bay.
These improvements are directly responsible for the high quality of sea water along Southie’s shores, which have drawn more and more people back to beaches like M Street and Carson. It has also helped matters at Malibu and Savin Hill in Dorchester.
But Tenean, according to the report, has failed 20 percent of the daily water tests conducted by Save the Harbor-Save the Bay over the last six months. Their ranking of public beaches from Nahant to Nantasket— released on May 30— puts Malibu second to last in terms of water quality.
As Save the Harbor-Save the Bay’s Bruce Berman pointed out in last week’s article, Tenean is hardly the “destination” beach that Southie’s Carson or even Savin Hill could be. Tenean is not as convenient to public transportation and its location right next to the Southeast Expressway keeps it tucked away from most people’s view.
Still, Tenean is a great spot where families can enjoy the well-maintained sand and the new-and-improved playground, if not the water. Although the water remains safe for swimming on many days, the beach’s reputation suffers from those days— especially after a rainstorm— when it’s clearly not okay to enter the water.
State Senator Jack Hart, who organizes annual clean-ups at Dot and Southie beaches, wants the MWRA to investigate the exact cause of Tenean’s chronic condition. He thinks that illegal hook-ups from private property may be flushing into the Neponset River where it flows into the harbor next to Tenean at Davenport Creek. Hart wants an analysis done to figure out how the state can attack the problem. It’s a request that the MWRA should take up in the near term so that future report cards on our city beaches can include Tenean as a viable choice for families.
In the meantime, Senator Hart’s office has scheduled a clean-up day at Tenean for Mon., July 2 at 6 p.m.
– Bill Forry