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Boston draining what has turned into a toxic, duck-killing Public Garden Lagoon

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department reports it started draining the Public Garden Lagoon today to try to rid it of toxic grossness that has spawned several 311 complaints about dead ducks.

In a response to one of the complaints, the department says that the buildup of toxic microorganisms was spurred in part by the Covid-19 cancellation of Swan Boats this year - normally, the motion of the boats' paddles introduces oxygen and turbulence, both of which deter the growth of the sort of microscopic nasties that can kill wildlife.

Boston Parks and Recreation Department began draining the Public Garden Lagoon today because the water has become unsafe for wildlife, particularly the ducks. It will take 2-3 days for the lagoon to fully drain. The unusually hot, dry summer has encouraged bacteria and algae growth. What’s more, the Swan Boats are on hold this year. Their paddle wheels introduce oxygen into the lagoon and create turbulence that discourages unwanted growth. We engaged a lake and pond management company to treat the lagoon throughout the month of July. When we saw little improvement after weeks of testing and treatment, we made the decision to fully drain the lagoon, remove sediment at the bottom, and refill it. The condition of the lagoon poses no threat to humans.

H/t fellow 311 browser David W.

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Comments

Wait!!! Can we get a bunch (ideally 100+) geese to wade around in that water first?!?!

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With the proximity to Boston's public water supply, you would think they could replace dirty, stagnant water before it kills waterfowl that the people look forward to seeing in Boston's most iconic park.

But no, let's ignore it until dead ducks are floating in the water, decomposing. Nothing matters until the real estate developers see it and complain, right? "Something-something, COVID-19."

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more commonplace everywhere, not just in our public parks. If you think Trump's response to one existential crisis (the pandemic) is an abject failure -- which if you have two brain cells to rub together, you will -- wait till you see what he's doing about climate change. (Hint: it's also an abject failure.)

Until we get that lethal incompetent out of office, plenty of secondary priorities like this are going to have to slide. Nothing good in public life happens until we get the pandemic in hand, and Trump is clearly utterly incapable of taking Step One to deal with it.

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and failures to control climate change. In Boston, trees are being cut down, grass paved over, construction equipment spewing toxins because of unabated development. I don’t want to hear any complaints from Marty about rising sea levels when he is part of the problem.

And local officials everywhere could have set stricter limits if they wanted to get ahead of the pandemic. While I’m no fan of Trump, he is not the only person who could have taken more and better steps to deal with this.

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Ok, but for toxic algae blooms, grass is the problem.

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Grass isn’t good for the environment. Quite the opposite.

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Are you really positing that pavement is preferable to grass?

I need to lay down.

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The alternative to chem-lawn isn’t pavement, it’s natural soil with natural vegetation growing on it

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...which doesn't necessarily rule out grass. Just rules out the hyper-manicured, hi-maintenance, "chem-lawn" (as you said) type stuff.

I used to joke that after years of fighting their lawn (never using chemicals), my folks had gone laissez-faire and the demense had found an equilibrium state. They had a mixture of grass, crabgrass, clover, weeds, moss, some pine needles and some ivy & ficus. Most of it you wouldn't want to walk on in your bare feet - but it basically didn't grow, didn't die, didn't need mowing, didn't need fertilizer, didn't need watering, didn't need pesticide, it kept the slope from blowing away in a cloud of dirt, and if you didn't look close-up it didn't look too bad. My line was that half of their manicured subdivision was taking up a petition against the unkempt thatch and other half was going to give them a commendation for environmental conservation.

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But unlike Kinopio, I prefer grass to pavement.

Over in Allston, they pave their lawns- for parking. Again, not something I’d think Kino would support, since I oppose that myself. Strange times.

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It's a duck pond with stagnant water and no plant or fish life to filter algae naturally. If your first thought is Trump y'all got issues.

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every large-scale problem we face, I'd suggest that you don't know how to assess and prioritize security threats rationally. I get how this kind of six-month-horizon thinking blows the low-amp fuses of most Trumpies.

My point is that as long as the pandemic continues to rage, adversely affecting every single facet of our physical and economic health and security, it's hard to pay attention to other priorities. We need to address a whole host of other dire threats, but if you are sensibly assessing them as a gestalt, you concentrate first on keeping yourself and your loved ones alive, whole and thriving (sorry, duckies).

So yes, Trump's utter incompetence at marshaling a national response to the pandemic is ultimately the root of every other problem that is festering for lack of attention. President I Take No Responsibility isn't going to suddenly wake up one day and figure it out: he's a lethal buffoon, a clueless used-car salesman at the helm of an ocean liner. It should surprise no one that he steered us directly into an iceberg, and with the ship capsized is still blithering that there's nothing to worry about, it's all under control.

Climate change is empirically a contributing factor in the growth of harmful algal blooms. But I have to admit: I'm focusing less on that world-ending but less-imminent problem and how it incidentally mucks up a public park these days. When the plane you're on is spiraling downward toward a mountain, you can be forgiven for forgetting in the instant that your smoking habit will likely give you cancer.

The lumbering, chaotic, irrational, murderous elephant in the room is Trump and his pathetic, deadly impotence at getting the pandemic under control. Take a deep breath and focus, dude.

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Let’s spend a hundred or so trillions developing a cow fart neutralizer while India and China keep burning coal, that’ll save the planet!

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According to https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/electricity/electricity-in-the-us.php, 23% of electricity in the US is generated from coal. But go on about other countries first.

Glass houses and all.

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But it's not even a blip on the radar compared to China that's 59% and burns a lot more coal than the rest of the world combined, or India that's 72% and also has everyone burning trash right in their backyards which creates even more pollution than their coal power plants. And let's not even mention all the other developing nations with rising electricity demands who will use what's cheap and readily available, not what's green, expensive and virtuous. But let's go ahead and tax everyone into poverty just so we can have better-smelling cow farts.

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Not really. Let's use Germany as an example. Per 2019 stats, roughly %30 of electricity generated in Germany is via coal... with the majority of it being low low grade brown coal (lignite). That's a whole %7 higher than the American rate you cited.

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Somebody is spewing right wing talking points AND their own ignorance at the same time.

I wonder what the correlation is for that sort of thing ...

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Any evidence to show that global warming is causing an increase in toxic algae blooms?

Let's say our weather warms to be similar to North Carolina's weather a few years back. Were North Carolina's ponds perpetually toxic to ducks?

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Climate Change

Climate change contributes to excess cyanobacteria blooms by creating ideal conditions for cyanobacteria to grow. Cyanobacteria thrive in warm waters: as global temperatures rise, so too does global water temperatures. Cyanobacteria not only grow more rapidly in warm water from increased temperatures, but warmer waters also make it more difficult for water to mix, meaning the surface of the water remains much warmer than the rest of the body of water—and cyanobacteria grow more successfully on the surface.5

Climate change is jeopardizing two of the most precious resources the Midwest possesses: food and water, according to federal studies. Greater rainfall and more powerful storms are eroding some of the richest soils in the United States and, in doing so, washing bloom-inducing fertilizers from farm fields into Lake Erie.

Climate change is making algal blooms worse
Now, a study has unpicked how warming ocean temperatures have already driven an intensification of blooms around North America — the first time this link has been established at an ocean scale1.

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Bostons water supply is the quabbin reservoir in western mass. Sounds like theyre trying to do the right thing here. Why not give them a break?

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The city is built on a swamp.

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I thought our public water supply comes from the Quabbin, 50+/- miles away? How is the (tiny) public garden lagoon proximate?

. With the proximity to Boston's public water supply,

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I believe they meant that a hose with city water is available to refill the pond.

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the toxic puddle has no connection to our water supply

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What's up w/Boston leaders? Do people, animals, and ducks have to die before action is taken to do the right thing?

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Proximity to public water supply? Where?

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Perhaps Fredly doesn't know where Boston's water actually comes from.

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Yeah.
I was wondering if they were thinking there was some sort of link to either Route 9 in Brookline (which I'm not sure is connected anymore) or Chestnut Hill Resevoir/Beacon St (which I think is only a backup).
Didn't they cover most of the open air reservoirs on the eastern half of the supply between Quabbin and Boston a few years ago? Like the location next to the Pike in Weston or Wayland or someplace?

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Despite the absolutism summary of global warming increases in the past 30 years offered up here a few weeks ago by someone who lives within walking distance of the Royal House, to prove beyond a doubt that it was never,ever hot when I worked on the Swan Boats (because she Swirled the math), I can offer a few things about the Public Garden lagoon.

Firstly, the pond is artificial. It is no different than a water feature at a golf course. There is no spring that feeds the pond and no drainage other than natural seepage through the dirt.

The water comes from either rain, which we have had not a lot of this year or a faucet is turned on to let the water in. It is very easy to turn the water on, you just need the right tools and to know where the faucet is located.

The pond is drained through seepage but also there is a sewer under the pond. That duck house on the Boylston Street side is actually a man, sorry personhole, where two sewer pipes from the Back Bay intercept. The wooden structure over it is just a façade to hide it. That too can be opened like you would open the drain on your tub. People do crap in the Back Bay too despite the niceties of the area and denials of the NABB that anything like that could ever happen there, thus the sewer.

As far as algae blooms goes in this spot, it isn't global warming. It's people. People feeding the ducks, the geese, and those nasty (and invasive) swans. The feeding of migratory waterfowl is illegal, its a federal crime, but people do it anyway. The birds hang out because there's food. Those birds crap in the water and thus create the stew needed for algae to grow. With the boats not turning the water, there is no oxygen being put back into the pond. That's why when you see many artificial ponds, there is a fountain. It circulates the water and decreases the flow.

As far as a dead duck in the water, yup. It happens. It seems the park department dropped the ball overall. One of the sons of Channel 5 and 56 anchorman Jack Hynes; Dave, used to keep that park perfect. It is a shame that it has slipped.

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I lived in Boston proper in the 1980s (Fenway/Kenmore) and hauled my mattress to the roof deck now and again. It got hot in the 1980s, but not like it does now with day after day of tropical swelter. There has been a huge increase in days over 90F, and big increase in summer average high temps and low temps.

Data talks, bullshit walks. Not that you still know how to walk ...

That said, IT IS CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSING THIS INCREASE IN GREEN SLIME. Period. Nutrient levels are being tracked by the watersheds - they have not increased as much (and decreased in some areas) as the heat component of the equation. The heat is more intense, consistent, and fueling reproduction of cyanobacteria.

Listen/read: https://www.wbur.org/earthwhile/2019/07/26/toxic-algae-cyanobacteria-cha...
Read: https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/climate-change-and-harmful-algal-b...

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This is like watching mommy and daddy fight over who gets to give the kids ice cream.

Porque no los dos?

It is BOTH the stagnation of the pond (ever wonder why your aquarium needs a recirculating pump?) AND the increased standing temperature of the water due to an above-average warmer summer due to the increasing impact of climate change making it way more soupy and less borschty for the algae to bloom better.

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When that valve is opened the pond is fed by gravity from the Charles, so the water ain't that clean to begin with.

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But the influx from the Charles might provide the starter kit, and heat and evaporation will boost the concentrations given enough food.

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!

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It is Quabbin Water. Good old fashioned Swift River moisture.

Also, if toxic algae blooms aren't caused by bird crap, then why doesn't Jamaica Pond look the same, or Houghton's Pond, or Fresh Pond? Those places do have springs and other sources of water, but what they don't have is a bunch of people feeding the birds. Birds who defecate into the large puddle that is the lagoon in the Public Garden.

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JP, HP, and FP are all VASTLY bigger than Swan Boat Lake. They have more surface area (for more oxygenation), they're deeper (leading to more convective flows within them), and it would take a LOT more bread and birdseed and crapping birds to stoke their algae levels high enough to kill later arriving waterfowl.

Additionally, HP (which is the smallest of the 3 you mentioned AND allows human swimming in places) does get shut down from time to time due to water quality testing.

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Bird poop = food
Heat = increased reproduction of cyanobacteria

The low volume of the lagoon makes it more likely to heat up than a larger water body.

Heat increases cyanobacterial reproduction rates - more so than competing microorganisms.

The low volume + heat contributes to eutrophication (oxygen levels plummet). Eutrophication removes competitors for that food (other bacteria that need more oxygen).

When you have an overheating water body or even a shallow area of a waterbody, the cyanobacteria "bloom" because they "win".

As for "where do these bacteria come from"? Well, everywhere. They just become a nuisance when water heats up, loses oxygen, and concentrates nutrients.

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Next time maybe you can offer your facts without being such a toxic jerk?

(nah, probably not)

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Stick to problems with the Connecticut River and the Pioneer Valley. Thanks.

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...if you stick to problems in whatever swamp yankee paradise you call home. NEXT!

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Look, I probably shouldn’t be weighing in on the lagoon, being a local who has lived here for over 40 years. In fact, I had never even heard of the swan boats that John once piloted around the body of water until I had some relatives visit from Europe. It seems this is the #1 thing visitors to Boston want to see. We should maintain it well, lest the tourists stop visiting the city once COVID is under control.

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Could you possibly be more passive-aggressive?

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And judging by the passive aggressive comment of yours I replied to, I bet you can, too.

I mean, I did put some effort into that, but I think I have more in the tank. I like to think of it more as sarcasm, but whatever they call it out west, I'll take.

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lol you're hilarious.

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"With the boats not turning the water, there is no oxygen being put back into the pond."

Witness the majestic swan boat. Returning to this pond every spring, this vital vessel plays an important part in maintaining proper oxygen levels and preventing algal blooms.

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That's why when you see many artificial ponds, there is a fountain. It circulates the water and decreases the flow.

If you don't have an bubbler or some way to put oxygen back into the water, it slimes up.

That pond really is just a pool of rain water thats occasionally filled with water from the tap.

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I lost a yellow Nokia down there somewhere that probably still works.

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Ewwwww. That is not quacktastic. Magoo.

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Dead ducks? I guess the frogs weren't the only ones to croak.

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The Public Garden lagoon was completed in 1859; the Swan Boats didn’t appear until 1877. However, the waters of the lagoon were never untroubled. Row boats were a common sight. In fact, the Paget family, which launched the Swan Boats, did so because they already had a long-standing concession to rent row boats. Nevertheless, from the beginning, in the warmer months, the lagoon was notorious for becoming a foul & fetid basin of pond scum. (putting the emerald in The Emerald Necklace!). The problem was the water- a combination of saltwater piped from the estuary of the Chuck, sewer outflow, and water piped in from the Frog Pond on the Common. Draining and cleaning the lagoon annually helped, but only the eventual elimination of the sewer outflow from the mix eliminated the scum and stench.

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Many of us have water gardens and backyard ponds. You learn quickly that it is a balance of aeration/oxygenation and circulation. Artificial environments like these are a balance. Once you get that balance. An artificial water feature will take care of itself. Remove one facet, like the swan boats and the paddle action. Then the balance has broken down.

There are many ways to start this balance. Making iit so it is not dependant on just one thing. The reflecting pool in Washington DC has it's own breed of goldfish. Some of us add water plants like Lotus or Hyacinth. Even others add a form of bacteria that starts the decay process for natural debris like leaves. This has taught the City of Boston that you just cannot let things slide. The Lagoon in the Boston Garden, Swan Boats, or no Swan Boats, is a treasure.

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Is nobody amused that the equilibrium of the Public Garden ecosystem relies on Swan Boats?

The Swan Boats have established themselves as the apex predators of the Public Garden. Remove them, and you're literally up shits creek without a paddle.

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NBCBoston reports that the ducks appear to have died of botulism poisoning, which sounds (but may not actually be) scarier than cyanobacteria.

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Or was it quackery?

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