Unquity Brook Update: June 2016

Improved stormwater management and eliminated sewage contamination will lead to massive improvements in water quality.

June 15, 2016

Unquity Brook is one of the hotspot streams that has been identified as an area that has chronic pollution issues and needs to be addressed immediately.   Water quality data collected by our CWMN volunteers have documented the long history of pathogen and nutrient pollution issues that the brook has suffered.

Rainbow Smelt

Rainbow Smelt

Unquity Brook holds a special importance in our watershed because it is provides spawning grounds for the migratory Rainbow Smelt. The once common Smelt, have been in decline over the past decades because of over fishing and loss of spawning habitat.

Find out more about the project goals here.

Recognizing the need for urgent action, NepRWA partnered with the town of Milton to secure funding through the Department of Coastal Zone Management to closely monitor water quality within the stream and to find locations within the watershed where stormwater management devices could be used to improve water quality by reducing the negative impact of stormwater runoff.

Past efforts to address the water quality issues in Unquity Brook have failed mainly because they were unable to locate where the contamination was coming from. This spring, with the help of a newly developed technology called “Microbial Source Tracking,” we were able to locate two major points of sewage contamination, and we are now one step closer to resolving the pathogen problem within the brook.

WATER SAMPLING COOKE HIRSCH RAUBEROver the course of this project we conducted 3 rounds of sampling (2 during dry weather, and 1 during wet weather), surveyed 14 potential stormwater runoff treatment sites, and developed conceptual designs for the top 3 sites. After sampling, we held a meeting with the Milton DPW to present our water quality data and to discuss our ideas for potential stormwater management improvements.

Water Quality Data

The water quality data from our sampling missions suggested that there are two major points of sewage contamination along Unquity Brook. Once notified of the two trouble areas, Milton DPW was able to develop a short list of likely sources of contamination. One of the sites is a municipally owned building that has suffered from chronic sewage backup in its basement. The other site is less obvious. Further tracking within the stormwater infrastructure by town staff will be needed to locate the sources of the sewage pollution and ultimately fix the problem. While the grant funding for this project ends June 30th, we will continue to work with the Town of Milton to resolve the identified issues, and will provide updates on the progress.

Click here to view map showing E. coli bacteria results.

Stormwater Management Improvements

After a long discussion with Milton DPW about proposed stormwater management sites, we were able to reach an agreement on the top three sites:  the Milton Police Station, Cunningham Elementary School, and the intersection of Brook Road and Centre Street. We are now in the process of writing a follow-up grant to hire an engineering consultant to develop detailed plans that could be used to implement these projects in the future. If all three projects were implemented, runoff generated from an estimated 1,049,455 ft² of impervious surfaces would be treated before reaching Unquity Brook.

The combination of improved stormwater management and eliminated sewage contamination will lead to massive improvements in the brook’s water quality, and to the restoration of the prized Smelt breeding grounds.

For more information about the project, contact Chris Hirsch at Hirsch@neponset.org

4 responses to “Unquity Brook Update: June 2016”

  1. Betsy McKenzie says:

    Not chlorine in the pool, but eutrophication – the pool has an algal bloom every summer, and turns emerald green. I flew over the park in an airplane yesterday & was able to identify it by the color of the pool. Releasing it would include a lot of nitrogen and potentially E. coli into the brook. I know people get ear & eye infections from the water in the pool (I stopped taking family there after I developed pink eye.)

  2. Betsy McKenzie says:

    P.S. we walk our dog there, but carefully pick up… not everybody does!

  3. Betsy McKenzie says:

    Why do you think it is the Cunningham Elementary School and not the Cunningham Park across the street, which actually contains the Unquity Brook? The park hosts dog walkers and a swimming pool which is discharged directly into the brook on several occasions through the year. It has dressing rooms with showers and toilets, often w/ no toilet paper, and I do not know where those discharge to, but suspect it is NOT to Milton’s sewers. The pool is open during part of the time the CWMN samples are taken, but dogs are walked year round. They may both be sources.

    • Ian Cooke says:

      Hi Betsy,

      We don’t think that sewage from the Cunnigham School is getting into the brook. Rather, its that there is a storm drain system that collects runoff from a large area of pavement and roads, and which runs right past the school and through the woods behind the school. We would like to use some of the area in the woods to treat the runoff and help it soak into the ground before it gets to the stream. We did look at the parking areas at Cunningham Park, but it appears that runoff from these areas just spreads out safely onto the grass instead of going into the drains. Also while we didn’t investigate it specifically, I’d be very surprised if the bathrooms there were draining into the brook instead of the sewer. Lastly, its OK to discharge swimming pool water to the drain system so long as you let the water sit for two weeks without adding any chlorine before discharging it.

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