MassDOT’s mission is to provide a safe and reliable transportation system, while protecting and enhancing the environment wherever possible. One important way MassDOT works to enhance the environment is to improve the water quality of rivers and streams across the Commonwealth, including the Charles River, by upgrading its stormwater management system.
Stormwater is rain or melted snow that has run off impervious or saturated surfaces such as lawns or roads. As runoff flows over highway pavement it can pick up pollutants such as sediments, nutrients, metals, and trash. Rather than naturally infiltrating into the ground, this polluted stormwater is often collected and conveyed by drainage systems that directly discharge to a water body. MassDOT’s stormwater management project area in this case is the Charles River.
Great strides have been made to improve the water quality of the Charles River over the years through sewage treatment plant upgrades and removal of Combined Sewer Overflows. More needs to be done to minimize persistent problems such as algal blooms that the River faces today. An important part of this effort has been to install Best Management Practices including infiltration basins and swales and a wet pond along the Charles to provide stormwater treatment and reduce pollutants to the River.
These practices manage both the quality and quantity of stormwater runoff by capturing most runoff events and mimicking natural “pre-development” conditions. The practices for this project along the I-90 corridor between Weston and Boston include 23 infiltration basins and swales and a wet pond.
The infiltration systems are especially effective in treating stormwater because most soils have a high capability for capturing pollutants, in addition to facilitating ground water recharge. And wet ponds work by attenuating stormwater, thereby allowing sediments and associated pollutants to settle before being conveyed and discharged.
So far 16 basins have been installed and several are currently in construction. Plantings and seeding are being incorporated throughout the work zones to enhance the appearance of the installations. The project’s anticipated completion date is December 2016. These installations are just one example of MassDOT’s continuing efforts to protect the environment and mitigate the impacts of highway runoff on adjacent waterbodies.
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