Science picks -- leads, feeds and story seeds (February 2003)

lands and bring their parasites here to get invasive species under control. At least with Superman, his super powers were used for good deeds, but these super species are devastating to the native species and environment they are invading. Catherine Puckett (cpuckett@usgs.gov) 707-442-1329

A (Pretty Good) River Runs Through it (Boston) The Charles River running through the heart of metropolitan Boston faces water-quality problems, but they aren't any worse than those in other similarly urban rivers, according to a new USGS study. As a matter of fact, the quality of the Lower Charles River water can be considered good--it meets water-quality standards and guidelines during dry weather. The problems in the Charles and other urban rivers come during rainstorms when contaminated storm water can significantly impair water quality. When compared with 23 other cities, the storm-water quality in Boston is generally similar to or better than that reported in the other cities. The contaminant that most adversely affects the use of the river after rainstorms is fecal coliform bacteria, much of which comes from residential areas, following various pathways to the river. Some bacteria wash off after accumulating on rooftops, streets, parking lots and other impervious surfaces during dry periods. Some reach the river through illicit sewer connections to storm drains, and some get to the river through combined sewers, sewers that were designed to carry a combination of storm water and raw sewage. But bacteria concentrations and storm water loads are just one part of the story of water-quality in the Lower Charles River during both wet and dry weather, large loads of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as trace metals, such as chromium and lead, attach to particles and flow to the river. Butch Kinerney (bkinerney@usgs.gov) 703-648-4732



Contact: USGS Office of Communications
United States Geological Survey

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