Community Health & Environment

Beaches Report Card Released by Save the Harbor / Save the Bay

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. That means beach season! The following water quality and beach flagging report was released by Save the Harbor / Save the Bay.

On Sunday, May 26, 2013 Save the Harbor / Save the Bay released its second annual Beaches Report Card on water quality and beach flagging accuracy on the region’s public beaches from Nahant to Nantasket that are managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The report card examined water quality and flagging accuracy on 15 beaches in Nahant, Lynn, Swampscott, Revere, Winthrop, East Boston, South Boston, Dorchester, Quincy and Hull.

A copy of the 2013 Beaches Report Card is attached. You can see the data summary for each beach and learn more about the methodology on which it is is based at

Here is a snapshot of the results.

“2012 was a good year for most of the Boston Harbor region’s public beaches, with more than half earning either an A or an A plus,” said Bruce Berman, Director of Strategy, Communications and Programs at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, which produced the report. “It was also a dry year, which explains most of the changes we saw from 2011. Bacterial pollution is often caused by storm water discharges that accompany summer showers, squalls and storms, so less rain means cleaner water.”

Among the findings:

  • Overall Beach Safety on theses beaches increased from 88.82% in 2011 to 92.90% in 2012.
  • South Boston’s beaches once again topped the list of beaches tested daily, at 98.17%, followed by Pleasure Bay at 93.86% and Wollaston Beach in Quincy at 93.20%.
  • Beaches in Revere and Winthrop, which are tested weekly, scored 100% in 2012, followed closely by Nantasket Beach in Hull at 98.33%.
  • King’s Beach in Lynn and Swampscott scored 86.40% in 2012, up from 73.20% in 2011, while Tenean Beach in Dorchester scored 81.82% in 2012, up from 79.50% in 2011.
  • Constitution Beach in East Boston scored 88.60% in 2012, down from 93.20% in 2011. Malibu Beach and Savin Hill Beach in Dorchester scored 88.89% and 88.24% respectively, a slight decrease from 2011. Nahant Beach scored 89.29%, a slight increase from 2011.

Flagging accuracy improved somewhat in 2012, as a direct result of DCR’s continuing efforts to develop more accurate models for beach management on a beach-by-beach basis. While specificity (blue flag accuracy) is fairly high on many beaches, sensitivity (red flag accuracy) continues to be problematic, with less than 50% of the red flags posted correctly on some beaches in 2012. This issue needs to be addressed, said Berman “if we are to protect both the public’s health and their right to enjoy the benefits of our region’s pubic investment in clean water and better beaches.”

In 2013, Save the Harbor will continue to work with the Metropolitan Beaches Commission (MBC), the DCR, MWRA, EPA, DEP, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Beaches Science Advisory Committee to develop more accurate models to better predict when to post or flag a beach. “At Save the Harbor/Save the Bay our goal is clean water and not simply better models or faster and more accurate test results. We are working towards the day when there is no need for flags at all,” said Berman.

You can download the report card, see the data and learn more about the methodology on which the report card is based at For more information on Save the Harbor / Save the Bay’s 2013 Beaches Report Card, contact Bruce Berman on his cell at 617-293-6243 or email

Save the Harbor / Save the Bay would like to thank Dr. Jim Shine and Dr. Judy Pederson, Co-Chairs of our Beaches Science Advisory Committee, Dr. Andrea Rex and Kelly Coughlin of the MWRA, DCR’s Gary Briere, and SH/SB’s Staff Assistant for water quality Jacqueline Sussman for their help with this report.