Appendix C: Issues Background

This appendix lists the major issues in the North Coastal watersheds, with some breakdown by subwatershed systems. Included is background information on specific issues that arose during the public input phase of this project. Additional reference material and input from community members is available on the “Comments” section of the website, The website documents the source of the comments in most cases – readers should interpret any data which is undocumented in this report as from the website comments section, where source citations can be found.

NCW subwatershed list









Bennett’s Pond Brook

Lynn Harbor

Bass River

Alewife Brook

Blackwater River

Broad Sound

Nahant Bay

Beverly Harbor

Annisquam River

Smallpox Brook

Hawkes Brook

Phillips Beach

Beverly Rocks



Lower Saugus

Stony Brook

Chubb Creek

Cat Brook


Pines River


Crane River

Chebacco Lake


Revere Brook


Danvers River

Essex River


Shute Brook


Forest River

Gloucester Harbor


Town Line Brook


Frost Fish Brook

Good Harbor Beach


Upper Saugus


Goldthwaite Brook

Halibut Point


Lake Quannapowitt


Marblehead Harbor



Flax Pond


North River

Rockport Harbor


Strawberry Brook


Porter River

Sawmill Brook




Proctor Brook

Walker Creek




Salem Harbor

Wolf Trap




Sawmill Brook





Waters River



C1. Saugus River subwatershed

The Saugus River subwatershed occupies 47 square miles (122 km2), originating at the outlet of Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield.  This Class B Treated Water Supply flows from the outlet at the lake in an easterly direction and forms the border between Wakefield, Lynnfield just west of Rt95/128.  The river flows through the 540 acre Reedy Meadow where it is joined by Beaverdam Brook, which drains the central area of the town of Lynnfield.  The river turns south, flows past the Colonial Golf and Country Club into an impoundment where the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission can divert the river as a water supply. The river receives flow from four tributaries in its freshwater reach including Beaverdam Brook, Mill River, Hawkes Brook, and Bennets Pond Brook.  Below the Saugus Iron Works the river becomes a tidal estuary.  Shute Brook discharges into the tidal Saugus River and is later joined by the Pines River.  The tidal currents carry the river flow into Lynn Harbor, Broad Sound and Massachusetts Bay.  The length of the river is 13 miles.

The 2003 Water Quality Report for the Saugus River Watershed found that 32% of the samples collected in failed to meet the federal water quality criteria for swimming, and 19% failed to meet the federal water quality criteria for boating. Approximately 10% of the samples collected were below the state recommended minimum of 5 mg/l of dissolved oxygen for a fresh water fishery. The watershed showed no significant problems associated with pH or conductance during 2003. The full document is available on

The Town Line Brook and its tributaries (Linden and Trifone Brook) drain into the Pines River before it meets up with the Saugus River.  The Saugus River subwatershed includes Lake Quannapowitt and Town Line Brook which are detailed separately in sections C6 and C8 below. An NPS construction project is detailed in C10.

C2. Nahant Bay subwatershed

The Nahant Bay subwatershed is highly developed as urban and suburban land.  Out of its total of 7,595 acres, 2,787 acres (or 36.7%) of the land is impervious surface and 62.2% of the land use is residential.  Because of these and other factors, storm water runoff is a major issue here.

The Nahant Bay subwatershed includes seven communities, comprising major portions of Marblehead, Swampscott, Lynn and Nahant.  It is divided up into four subwatersheds – Lynn Harbor, Nahant Bay, Phillips Beach, and Stony Brook.  Although it is a highly developed area, the subwatershed contains about 1,010 acres of open space.

The subwatershed has three bodies of water on the Massachusetts section 303d list of impaired water bodies.  Nahant Bay itself is on the list as well as Floating Bridge. (See Appendix F, category 5 waters).

C3. Salem Sound subwatershed

The Salem Sound subwatershed is a predominately urban area made up of six communities.  The communities consist of Beverly, Danvers, Manchester, Marblehead, Peabody and Salem.  The portion of Manchester that drains to Salem Sound is a mixed rocky and sandy beach coastline.  The eastern portion of Beverly has large sections of sandy beach that are erosional zones, with few marshes.

With ten bodies of water on the Massachusetts section 303d list of impaired water bodies, water quality continues to be a main priority in this system.  The major tributary to Salem Sound, the Danvers River, and two of its tributaries, Crane River and Waters River are on the list as well as two other tributaries to the Sound, North River and Forest River.  It has 7,668 acres of impervious surface, or 27% of the entire system (total acreage 28,899 acres).

Salem Sound is divided up into thirteen sub-basins, several of which are small rivers that flow directly into the sea.  They are as follows:  Chubb Creek, Beverly Rocks, Beverly Harbor, Bass River, Frost Fish Brook, Crane River, Danvers River, Proctor Brook, Goldthwaite Brook, North River, Salem Harbor, Forest River and Marblehead Harbor. A large portion of Salem Sound is residential (42%) with 22% forest and 14% open land.  It also has a significant amount of land dedicated to commercial, industrial, and transportation uses.

C4. Cape Anne subwatershed

The Cape Ann subwatershed is the largest system in the North Coastal Watershed at 38,558 acres.  Gloucester, Rockport and communities southeast attract thousands of tourists each year. The coastline here is most noted for its rocky headlands and shallow soils covering ledge.  Many people in this region depend on fishing (lobstering, finfishing, and shellfishing) and tourism. The upper North Shore, Ipswich and Essex, are most noted for their long barrier beaches, estuaries, salt and fresh water systems and poorly drained soils.  Portions of Cape Ann include the Great Marsh Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).  A total of eight communities make up the Cape Ann System.  They include the above mentioned along with Manchester, Wenham, Hamilton and Beverly.

The land use is predominately forest at 51.9% with residential and wetlands at 22.1% and 10.5% respectively.  While the total system has 2,634 acres (6.8%) of impervious surface, it is mostly concentrated in the coastal areas.  The major routes include Route 128, 133, 127 and the commuter rail.

The Cape Ann System is divided in fourteen sub-basins.  They are:  Alewife Brook, Annisquam River, Beaches, Cat Brook, Chebacco Lake, Essex River, Gloucester Harbor, Good Harbor Beach, Halibut Point, Lanesville, Rockport Harbor, Sawmill Brook, Walker Creek and Wolf Trap.  It has nine bodies of water on the Massachusetts section 303d list of impaired water bodies.  These include Gloucester, Rockport and Manchester Harbors as well as Essex and Annisquam River.  Some of the main issues in this area include development and growth rates along the coast as well as potential for growth inland.  Major issues:

·         Growth management

·         Adequate Water Supply

·         Shellfish Resources

·         Harbor Redevelopment

·         Combined Sewer Overflows

C5. Salisbury/Amesbury subwatershed

The Salisbury/Amesbury subwatershed is located in the northeastern corner of Massachusetts.  Salisbury Beach, a popular and heavily visited recreation area, is a coarse sand barrier beach stretching from the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border to the mouth of the Merrimac River.  Behind the beach is a salt marsh system that is part of the Great Marsh ecosystem.

The Salisbury/Amesbury subwatershed is the smallest in the North Coastal Watershed at 5,337 acres and is made up of largely forest and wetlands.  Most of its residential areas are low to medium density with a higher density near the coastline. It has 468 acres (or 8.8%) of impervious surface and no bodies of water on the Massachusetts section 303d list of impaired water bodies.  It is mostly located in Salisbury with a very small portion in Amesbury.  It is divided into two sub-basins, Blackwater River and Smallpox Brook.  A large industrial park is located adjacent to Smallpox Brook between I-95 and US 1.  Constructed in 1973, wetlands were filled resulting in problems with drainage and sewage treatment.  Another issue in this subwatershed is runoff from I-95 and US 1.   Due to gaps in sufficient water quality data, this subwatershed could benefit from more studies in the future.

C6. Lake Quannapowitt (Saugus River subwatershed)


Reedy Meadow, a distinctive 540-acre freshwater marshland, along with Lake Quannapowitt form the headwaters of the Saugus River. Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield is the largest lake (at 254 acres) of the 85 lakes and ponds in the watershed. Lake Quannapowitt was a water supply briefly in 1957 during a drought. Arsenic was introduced into the lake in the early 1960s to deal with aquatic weeds.

Water quality testing indicates that 65% of the phosphorous comes from storm drains, 22% from lake sedi­ments, and the rest from direct runoff.  Fertilizer and goose droppings are major sources of nutrients in direct runoff.

Beginning in 1999, the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt holds a watershed awareness program with an outdoor classroom for all children that graduate the public school system. The Friends of Lake Quannapowitt (FOLQ) website is at 

Action Items:

·         The lake is overpopulated with Canada Geese.  A program needs to be developed and implemented to reduce the geese population to a sustainable level.

·         There is a problem with excessive weed and algae growth.  The problem has been linked to excessive nutrient levels in the lake.

·         Establishing a buffer zone along abutting streets (which currently offer no impediment to lawn fertilizer running directly into the lake during rain events).

·         To improve the lake’s quality to acceptable levels, the Town must address the stormwater problem. Treatment systems need to be developed and put in place.

·         In the long term, arsenic contamination (from the 1960s weeding program) can only be removed by dredging. The flow rates in the lake are insufficient to remove heavy metals from the lake sediment, but sufficient so that leaching keeps measurable arsenic levels in some lake sections.

C7. Chebacco Lake (Cape Ann subwatershed)


Chebacco Lake is on DEP’s integrated list of impaired waters under Category 4 (“Impaired b ynon-pollutants”) and was formerly 303(d) listed (impaired). In 1999, DEM and Salem State College participated in a series of workshops and presentations on a study of Chebacco Lake. In 2003, the Chebacco Lake Association wrote a series of articles in the Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle to publicize the issues about the lake. Nearby residents claim that Chebacco Lake is contaminated. DEP has issued a fish contamination advisory. The lake has high mercury levels and problems with noxious plants including nonnative plants (fanwort). Residential development is claimed to be the main threat. The 303d listing indicates the lake is eutrophic and rated as:

·         Fish consumption-non supportive

·         Primary contact recreation 1/2 supportive, 1/2 unevaluated

·         Secondary contact recreation- 1/2 supportive, 1/2 non-supportive

·         Aesthetics- 1/2 supportive, 1/2 non-supportive


Action Items:

·         Need to develop and implement a plan to control noxious plants and eliminate nonnative species.

·         Need to develop and implement a plan to determine if excessive nutrients contribute to the plant problem.  If excessive nutrients are present, develop a plan to identify the sources and control the nutrients.

·         Develop a plan to identify and eliminate the sources of mercury.

·         Locate sources of mercury within the lake and determine if they can be removed without increasing the environmental impact.

C8. Town Line Brook (Saugus River subwatershed)

Develop a plan to fund and implement the recommendations of the Final Report: Town Line Brook Hydraulics And Hydrology Study

The authors found through modeling and qualitative analysis that several solutions could be implemented singly or in combination to provide a noticeable improvement in not only flooding, but also water quality, and habitat. These alternatives were compiled into a preferred approach. The alternatives consists of the following:

Implement the report’s recommendations for improving water quality including:

C9. Lynn Woods (Saugus River and Salem Sound subwatersheds)

Lynn Woods consists of 2,200 acres of city-owned property plus 400 acres of surrounding woods. There are 40 miles of legal trails (although bicyclists often go off-trail, which is a problem). Lynn Woods contains four reservoirs, which is Lynn’s water supply. The City of Lynn now employs a park ranger (Dan Small) so that many schools send field trips to Lynn Woods and the previous litter problem is diminished, so the woods are now in pretty good shape. Lynn Woods has a small invasive weed problem – knotweed, some Norwegian Maple, and loosestrife. Arsenic, which was introduced in the Lynn Woods, had no clear means of having been dispersed or removed, so a study might locate arsenic contamination.

C10. Saugus Iron Works  (Saugus River subwatershed)

The National Park Service runs the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site. The site covers 9 acres along both banks of the Saugus River. A large-scale restoration project is proposed, which would restore the half of the park alongside and in the Saugus River. The goal would be to restore the marsh and restore flow, but not in the main channel (which requires a different permit). The actions would remove 18 inches of peat layer from phragmites, which clogs the flow and causes sedimentation. The intended result is that visitors would see open water flowing into the river rather than fields of phragmites. The area is the head of a tidal estuary, but is fresh, not saltwater.

The proposal is a Line Item Construction project in the federal budget (direct funding to the National Park Service), which requires NPS and presidential signatures. NPS will restore only the part of the river within its boundaries, but the project could server as a model for downriver, if successful. Anticipated schedule is to begin in September 2005 and complete by summer 2007. Funding level is approximately $2.6 million. The project is referred to as the “Turning Basin” restoration because the site is where the boats historically turned around.  Three possible levels of restoration are proposed:

·                     A: Restore pier and bulkhead with no sediment removal

·                     B: Remove sediment from north only.

·                     C: Remove all sediment and eradicate phragmites

·                     D: Remove sediment based on elevation from tidal surveys

C11. Water Supply Boards  (Salem Sound and Cape Ann subwatersheds)

The Salem-Beverly Water Supply Board has conserved water by the effective use of reservoirs for storage, supplied by the withdrawal of water from the Ipswich River during the winter when water levels are high, and stored for the summer month’s use. Currently that same supply of water is greatly threatened by increasing usage. Much of the increased usage is from the development in areas north of Salem-Beverly. For example, Salem-Beverly sometimes sells water to Danvers in times of shortage. Towns farther north grow and increase their well water use, decreasing the groundwater levels and the flow of the Ipswich River. Beverly and Salem are the largest users, yet because most of the land in the two cities is outside of the Ipswich River Watershed, the Salem-Beverly water supply after usage is returned to the sea depriving groundwater supply replenishment. The Ipswich River is one of the most endangered rivers in the US. The health of this river affects our entire region.

The same applies to Gloucester, Manchester, and Rockport. Most communities in the NCW have some local wells – often secondary wells. Surface water protection and watershed aquifer protection are the issues for drinking water protection, management, and planning.

C12. Contaminated stormwater issues (all subwatersheds)


Contaminated stormwater emanating from street drainage systems along highways and local roads. Contaminated stormwater is estimated to account for over 50% of the water quality problems in Massachusetts.

EPA has begun the process of addressing the problem of stormwater contamination. Under the authority of Section 402(p) of the Clean Water Act, small cities and towns located in urbanized areas will be required receive a permit to discharge stormwater and to develop and implement a stormwater management program. The permits will by administered as Phase II Stormwater Compliance of the NPDES program. These drainage systems are referenced as “municipal separate storm sewer systems” or MS4’s. Communities were slated to submit their respective plans in March of 2003.

The problem of contaminated stormwater emanating from street drainage systems along highways and local roads requires the coordinated involvement of municipal, state and federal authorities to achieve meaningful reductions in pollution loading. A related issue is contaminated urban sediments, particularly in the Salem Sound and Saugus River subwatersheds.

Lynn is under Joint Federal/State Consent Judgment Consent Judgment #76-2184-G to eliminate all CSOs and to address contaminated stormwater (in conjunction with the wastewater issue, below).

Essex has entered into Consent Judgment #96-2209B with the Commonwealth to address the discharge of pollutants from the town's storm drainage facilities into Essex Coastal Waters. A source of the pollutants has been identified as failing septic systems that are directly or indirectly tied into the storm drainage system. The town has agreed to implement a Core Area Water Pollution Abatement Program and submit a Wastewater Management Plan in accordance with the terms of the Final Judgment.

Action Items:

·         A plan need to be developed and implemented to provide technical assistance and funding assistance for the implementation of municipal stormwater plans and to insure the consent judgments are completed in a timely manner. Efforts should be prioritized within the four targeted subwatersheds of the Saugus River, Salem Sound, Gloucester Harbor, and Smallpox Brook.

·         Develop and implement a plan to install containment structures on all river crossings on state highways.  The need was demonstrated when there was a rollover of a gasoline truck in 1992 on 93N right at the Ipswich River within yards of Reading’s wells. It was a high-cost cleanup by Cumberland Farms and jeopardized Reading’s entire water supply as well as the Ipswich River communities down stream.

·         Encourage communities and watershed groups to take advantage of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service interest in working with communities to identify sources of stormwater contamination, and evaluate remedial options. They can meet with communities to determine goals and problems, conduct watershed site visits, help them set priorities,[10] carry out demonstration projects, and help prepare applications for funding through various grant programs.

C13. Impervious Surface runoff (all subwatersheds)

The major sources of runoff are individual actions with fertilizers and herbicides from lawns; and runoff of road salt, petroleum products, and heavy metals from impervious surfaces. Sediment runoff during rainstorm events affects fisheries heavily by filling in streambed interstices. It is estimated that each acre of impervious surface results in 20,000 gallons pf contaminated water.[11]

Citizens are generally unaware of the connection of their lawn maintenance on water quality in nearby lakes. A prime example is Lake Quannapowitt, where the NCW video documents that well-fertilized lawns lay 10 feet from the lakeshore. There are easy-to-use solutions for fertilizers and herbicides, so the primary issue is publicity about them. Establishing buffer zones along lakes in that situation would also be effective.

Road salting is a major issue. It impacts both surface and groundwater and alters habitat by changing chlorides and TSS. Lessons can be learned from Canadian BMP for road salt use. The future of the watersheds and habitats are linked to water quality. Road salt and impervious surface runoff is generally a more expensive issue because it involves town road maintenance rather than individual action.

One drinking water related example is the Lincoln Street Well in Manchester. It is a public water source and is a concern regarding road salt and runoff contamination. Its headwaters are along Rt. 128, and the well itself is next to a school parking lot and a golf course – many possible runoff sources!

C14. Wastewater issues (all subwatersheds)

Wastewater issues are specific to each community’s wastewater system. Hence in this section we describe each system separately, and then describe action items to address them collectively.

·         Salisbury completed an extension of its sewer main up Rt. 1A to the New Hampshire State Line. Property owners are in the process of completing ties into the system at this time. Town has applied for permits to extend sewer line up to the Salisbury Industrial Park.

·         Lynn is under Joint Federal/State Consent Judgment, #76-2184-G, to eliminate all CSOs and to address contaminated stormwater.

·         Rockport is currently under an Administrative Order # 835, which restricts the number of new connections to the system except in the case of written authorization by the Board of Health due to ground water compliance problem with outfall at Long Beach.

·         Gloucester is under a Joint Federal/State Consent Decree to manage all of its on-site systems. This resulted in the city installing sewers in West Gloucester and the development and adoption of the Daylor Plan to identify areas for further sewering. The city is also focusing on eliminating CSOs in the Gloucester Harbor. The city has aggressively tackled the on-site problems, implemented a Wastewater Management Plan, and received funding through the Commonwealth's State Revolving Fund (SRF). The Gloucester Master Plan includes pricing of water so that business use is appropriate, and impact fees for new development.

·         Essex has entered into a Consent Judgment, #96-2209B, with the Commonwealth to address the discharge of pollutants from the town's storm drainage facilities into Essex Coastal Waters. A source of the pollutants has been identified as failing septic systems that are directly or indirectly tied into the storm drainage system. The town has agreed to implement a Core Area Water Pollution Abatement Program and submit a Wastewater Management Plan in accordance with the terms of the Final Judgment.

·         Manchester is under an Administrative Consent Order #844, which restricts the number of new connections into the system except by written authorization by the Board of Health and requires the town to conduct I&I removal operations and update the existing POTW. The Manchester POTW was upgraded from primary to a full secondary facility as of August 1998 per the requirements of the Administrative Consent Order AP-BO-92-101.

·         South Essex Sewage District: the Beverly-Salem water treatment plant as of June 2004 removes its sedimentation filtration stream to SESD and maintains a lagoon for filter backwash, from which the solids are freeze dried and removed to landfill.

Action Items:

·         Develop and implement a plan to provide technical and financial support to municipalities to improve compliance with all wastewater regulations, permits, consent orders, etc.

·         Develop and implement a plan to provide technical support to help insure that all POTWs required to have a Local Limits program have one with a robust set of limits that address all water quality issues in their receiving waters and an enforcement program that insures compliance with all applicable limits.

C15. Blue Line Extension (Saugus River subwatershed)

The MBTA has proposed extending the Blue Line through Rumney Marsh to Lynn. No destruction is allowed of the ACEC. The entire marsh is a flood-prone area. Extending the Blue Line, say critics, has minimal transportation benefit because Lynn is already served by rail (commuter train to North Station – both the Rockport Line and the Newburyport Line). While recognizing the need for mass transit in general, critics also note that the MBTA parking garage in Lynn’s Central Square is usually empty despite being free of charge.

C16. Agricultural Impacts  (Cape Ann subwatershed)

Essex County farmland represents 8% of the landmass in the County (other counties in the watershed have lesser amounts of farmland, but the concepts are still applicable). There are 25,500 acres of land involved in agricultural production of which 12,500 acres are classified as prime land. Unfortunately farmland is under stress because average sales were $23,055 a year and 51% report a loss. The average age of farmers is now over 55 and only 3% are less than 35. Without support, farms will disappear and with them, access to fresh food, wildlife habitats, and open space.

Action Items:

·                     Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program (see

·                     Fund educational program / study of how farms benefit land use

·                     Find new opportunities for sustainable farm products

·                     Educate public on CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and location of farm markets

·                     Encourage “Buy Local” programs (see

·                     Dialogue with businesses and environmental groups

·                     Visioning conference for protection of agricultural land

·                     Support website for local food / Buy Local

·                     Education and booths at festivals and fairs