For all the investments of time, energy and money that have been made over many years to preserve and improve Hardy Pond, little is known about the water body itself.

In March 2012 there was a massive die-off of small, Bluegill sunfish. At the time, someone at Windsor Village, a rental community on the eastern shore of the pond, reported a “small” fish kill to MassWildlife. As a result, the interagency task force that investigates big fish kills took no action.

Fish kills due to natural oxygen depletion (anoxia), though common other times of year, are almost unheard of in the spring, say the experts at MassWildlife. When large die-offs do occur in spring some human complicity is assumed.

No testing was done at the time of the die-off, so we can only speculate at to the cause(s). Anoxia is a low level of dissolved oxygen, and is high on the list of possibilities because only one fish species was affected. But what could have caused anoxia?

The city is now taking matters into its own hands. Under the leadership of Mayor Jeanette McCarthy, and with the support of City Councilor Edmund P. Tarallo, a program of regular testing will be initiated this spring.

The testing will be performed by Lycott Environmental, Inc., and administered by Michael Chiasson, Director of Consolidated Public Works. (His department also contracts with Lycott for the herbicide treatment every spring to combat invasive weeds in the pond.)

According to Director Chiasson, water samples will be collected from two locations “following spring melt and/or rain events, and [again] immediately following a rain event in July/August 2013.” The two rounds of samples will be tested for the following:

  • Alkalinity
  • Nitrogen, Ammonia (NH3)
  • Nitrogen, Total Kjeldahl (TKN)
  • Nitrogen, Nitrate (NO3)
  • Phosphorus, Total
  • Salinity
  • Solids, Total Dissolved (TDS)
  • Temperature
  • Dissolved Oxygen
  • Transparency
  • MBAS (Surfactants)
  • Coliform, E.Coli
  • RCRA8 Total 200.7 (metals)
  • Solids, Total Suspended (TSS)

I asked Mr. Chiasson about the relation of testing to public policy. If some results lie outside the normal range and are judged adverse to a healthy pond ecosystem, would Lycott identify them and suggest a policy response? He emailed back what I felt was a thoughtful answer:

Based on the results we are going to determine if we want to keep the same program for 2014 or change it up a little. Typically the results are given with what the normal parameters should be. At this time there is nothing in this project regarding what [is] to be done to restore the pond to healthy living if needed. We [first] needed to get a baseline for what is going on in the pond. I think after we have some data we can look and see where we go from here.

That is a pragmatic approach to a complex subject. I welcome it and thank him for sharing it. I look forward with interest to the first results this spring.

Update March 17, 2013 – The Case of the Missing Water Birds: After the big fish kill of March 2012, the many, clamorous gulls and the few, imperturbable Double-crested Cormorants all disappeared from the pond. It was eerily silent except for the geese, when they were here, and about a dozen resident Mallards. Days would go by with nary a water bird in sight. I wondered if the loss of a food source were the cause. Then, after several months, the missing birds began to trickle back. That’s strange, I thought; the Bluegills couldn’t have recovered this quickly; they spawn in the spring. Then it dawned on me that the birds may have been driven off by whatever poisoned the Bluegills, if indeed they were poisoned. Or, perhaps it was simply the stench of the rotting fish in the water that impelled them to go.

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Related: Mono Lake*, Dead Fish*.


5 Responses to Testing the Water*

  1. Ron Cohen says:

    The importance of the city doing it goes beyond the obvious professional qualifications of the tester. When the city sponsors and pays for it, the city owns the test results. If the results are bad, there’s an implicit responsibility on the part of the city for a policy response. Whether assumed and acted upon, of course, is another matter.

  2. Marc Rudnick says:

    The Hardy Pond Association teamed up with UMass Boston and initiated water-testing at Hardy Pond last fall. Students come out and take readings every few weeks. We were unaware that the city is now planning to take up the task. It will be interesting to compare notes.

  3. Jim Fett says:

    Will be very interesting to see what the initial and then follow-up testing holds for the pond. Thanks Ron for your diligence!

  4. Rob Priore says:

    Good work pressing these people. The pond is a real sanctuary and needs to be looked after.

  5. Sally says:

    Glad to hear that you’re on top of this!!! Thanks.

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