Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rozalia Project Intern Blog: What Lies Beneath... The Charles

This post, fifth in our Intern Blog Series, is from Rozalia Project's first intern, Laura Dunphy. Laura worked with Rozalia Project Founder/Director Rachael Miller, in 2010 while she was a senior at Champlain Valley Union HS in Vermont and will be joining American Promise for the second time this summer. Laura is currently studying (and sailing) at MIT on the Charles River in Boston...

Rozalia Project Intern Blog: What Lies Beneath…the Charles 

 I first worked with the Rozalia Project back in the fall of 2010. One drizzly morning, Rachael and I drove the ROV down to Boston for a day of trash pickup on the Charles River. The river had been stirred up by rain, and visibility was so poor that we could barely see the claws of the robot on the monitor despite the fact that they are literally inches away from the camera. Although the water was only 2 or 3 feet deep, from where I stood on the dock, I could not make out the bottom. As the ROV approached the riverbed, Rachael excitedly called me over to the monitor. To my astonishment, the bottom of the river was COVERED in trash. I ran back to the edge of the dock to try and see what the ROV could see. I still saw nothing. It was at that moment that I realized what a powerful tool the Rozalia Project has at their disposal. In mere minutes I had been exposed to an underwater world that would most likely shock most Bostonian pedestrians.

 The Charles River has struggled with pollution for over a century. In the 1960’s submerged cars, raw sewage spills and toxic discharges were not uncommon. As recently as 1995, the EPA gave the river a “D” rating and advised those who fell in it to get a tetanus shot. After decades of effort from groups such as the Charles River Watershed Association, the river is finally looking better. It was most recently rated at a “B+.” (“Charles)

 While the river today is better than it once was, the pile of trash Rachael and I gathered in only a few hours (along with sonar images of larger, irretrievable objects such as tires) proves that the Charles is still polluted. Although waste treatment plants and industrial facilities have gotten better about what they release into the environment, average people still continue to litter. The majority of the (identifiable) objects we recovered that day were common items such as bottles, cans and clothing. It just goes to show that if people did not litter, there would be much less debris in the water. Small actions and slight lifestyle changes can go a long way toward protecting the environment.

 As I blissfully piloted the ROV and collected items covered in black sludge, I had no idea that I would be sailing on the Charles practically every day for the next four years! Now I am even more motivated to keep the river clean. Although I do not have the technology to clean the bottom of the river, I have been making an effort to collect floating debris whenever possible. I am looking forward to reuniting with the Rozalia Project and the underwater world!

 Works Cited: "Charles River Watershed Association." Charles River Watershed Association. Web. 09 Apr. 2012.

Improvements and remaining problems the river faces: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/07/20/the-polluted-past-and-promising-future-of-the-charles-river/

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