Historical Timeline

In 1900 the State Board of Health was directed to investigate complaints of nuisance weed growth and foul odors at Straits Pond. Several recommendations were made including:

  • Placement of pipes to connect the easterly end of the Pond with the Atlantic Ocean and replacing water in the Pond two or three times a month.
  • Also sewage and other waste materials were apparently being discharged into the Pond as the Board of Health at the time cited as essential the elimination of all such wastes from entering the Pond.
  • A third recommendation was for the removal of the mud and organic matter and replacement with sand and gravel.
  • Apparently little or no action was taken regarding the Mass Dept of Public Health recommendations.

In the 1940’s the Hull Highway Department contracted the services of Mr. Howard Bailey, a consulting engineer, to again examine the Straits Pond problems and make recommendations. It was Mr. Bailey’s proposal of a tide gate at the outlet of the Pond (i.e., the Weir River) which led to the construction of the gate at West Corner based on his plans. It should be noted, however, Mr. Bailey also recommended one or more openings be made to the Atlantic Ocean. The anticipated cost was to have been $13,000.00 at the time, and this work was not done.

In 1943 interest was again raised when discharges of pollution were found entering the Pond at various locations.

During the 1950’s the Town of Hull (and it is assumed though not stated with the support of the Town of Cohasset) began chemical treatments. Known chemicals included DDT and lead arsenate as well as the following:

  • heptacholor (Dr. Cohen, memorandum, February 3, 1954)
  • sodium arsenite and kuron (Mr. Boschetti, memorandum, October 20, 1960)
  • aqualin (Mr. Boschetti, memorandum, November 20, 1961)
  • arsenic trioxide (Mr. Boschetti, memorandum, January 5, 1970)
  • princep 80W (Mr. Boschetti, memorandum, March 2, 1971)
  • hydrothol-47 (Mr. Boschetti, letter, October 1, 1971)
  • Temephos, trade name Abate, an organophosphate pesticide was applied from c. 1970’s to 2003, intermittently.  Abate was aerially sprayed from helicopter, until and including 1991.  From 1994 to 2003 Abate was applied directly into the water by airboat by Lycott Environmental Incorporated.

In 1952 the State Board of Health was again contacted to respond to numerous complaints of the conditions at Straits Pond. At this time appropriations had already been made for the Town of Hull to proceed with construction of sewerage facilities. The Board of Health encouraged Hull to proceed with construction of sewerage facilities and to flush the Pond utilizing the existing outlet (i.e., the tidal gate at West Corner). An additional sanitary survey noted storm drains in both Hull and Cohasset that discharged runoff into the Pond. It further revealed that along Richards Road in Hull, sewerage was entering the pond from private property via pipes. It does not appear that these issues were addressed as the 1992 / 1994 Straits Pond reports found similar problems still in existence.

In 1953 a survey group observed an overflowing cesspool at 739 Jerusalem Road in Cohasset. The 1953 MA Department of Public Health report included the following recommendations:

  • Reiterated the earlier conclusions for the need for increased circulation in the Pond through an opening to the Atlantic Ocean at Black Rock.
  • Suggested the responsibility for the control of the outlet gates be turned over to the Port of Boston Commission to coordinate the raising and lowering of the Pond to permit exposure of sediments, chemical treatment of midge larvae and weeds, and exchange of water.
  • Either filling or dredging the Pond were also considered as possible solutions, but both alternatives were expected to be too costly to implement.

Since 1953 numerous studies and seasonal chemical treatments have been done. The Towns through the State Reclamation Board have funded chemical treatment for control of the weeds. Treatment of midges and mosquitoes has been handled through the South Shore Mosquito Control Project.

1980 IEP Study:  A study was initiated by the Towns of Hull and Cohasset in response to continuing problems at Straits Pond and the added problems resulting from the severe, winter storm in February, 1978. It was funded with a Community Assistance Grant from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management. IEP, a private, environmental management firm, was commissioned and prepared a report. The results indicated that the Pond is undergoing eutrophication due to enrichment pollution from faulty septic systems, direct discharge of sewerage, and run off of lawn fertilizers, etc. It was also noted that the problem is enhanced by minimal water exchange in the Pond.

Recommended by the 1980 IEP Study was management by lowering the water level in the Pond during the winter months for:

(a) better flooding control during winter storms,

(b) midge control with the theory being that fewer larvae would survive if there was greater exposure to the elements,

(c) to allow for the compacting of the mud which might also reduce the survival rate of the midge larvae.

In the spring of 1991 the Town of Hull was told by two state agencies, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) that Hull would no longer be allowed to spray with Abate, without conducting further studies on the problems of Straits Pond and evaluating other solutions.

On August 21, 1991, the Board of Selectman of Hull signed an agreement with the Hull School Committee. The agreement called for the professionally guided 9th grade students of the Hull Environmental High School to conduct a one-year study of the midge infestation and environmental problems of Straits Pond. The results appear in the Report on Midge Mitigation Study dated September 10, 1992 and copies of this report were provided to the Towns of Hull, Cohasset, and (it is believed) Hingham.

1992 Study:

Recommendation 1:

For additional monitoring to give a more reliable continuum of information. Sustaining ecological relationships can help the control of the nuisance midge problem, i.e., (1)  the eel (larger fish) to smaller finfish (Sticklebacks, Mummichogs, etc.) to midge larvae food chain and (2) the reduction of nutrients (pollution) entering the pond will help reduce the phytoplankton and plant growth.

Recommendation 2:

Increased flushing or exchange of surface water to keep salinity levels higher to help control the midge population. It was noted in the study data that the higher the level of salinity, the lower the midge larvae survival and pupation rate. Specifically mentioned were greater water exchange by manipulation of the gate during moon tides (new and full) and perhaps additional refinements to the gate to allow removal of surface waters. The long-range proposal was for repair and mechanically upgrading the tide gate for more frequent water exchange.

Recommendation 3:

To reduce the pollution the Richards Road and the Pond Street sewage outfall pipes should be tied into the Hull sewage system immediately.

In addition, the Town of Cohasset was considering an upgrade of its sanitary septic systems.  It was recommended that tying Cohasset (Ed. Note: Although not specifically stated it is assumed this reference is referring to Jerusalem Road and the area immediately adjacent to Straits Pond.) into the Town of Hull sewage system would be a positive step.

Conclusions:

(1)  Significant improvements have been made since the 1980 IEP study. Fecal Coliform counts were lower due to the cooperation of the Health agents of both Hull and Cohasset.

(2)  General water quality was somewhat improved due to the repaired tide gate and Hull’s Dept. of Public Works efforts on regulating the tidal gate.

(3)  Research into B.t.i. confirms that it is a safe and effective pesticide. Use of B.t.i. was felt to be premature at this time given that a more natural system along with better control of the tide gate appears to be contributing to control of the midges. It was expressed, however, that the Towns’ Conservation Commissions should apply for state permission to use B.t.i. should it become necessary in the future.

(4)  It was suggested that continued collecting / monitoring for another year would be wise before making a long-range management plan for Straits Pond’s restoration and protection.

1994 Report:

This was a continuation of the collecting and monitoring of Straits Pond which began in 1992 by the Hull Environment & Service Corps (professionally guided students).

Conclusions:

The IEP Study was limited to only one year of study of Straits Pond. After three years of study the Corps found that the present management technique of lowering the water levels during the winter was counterproductive.

Positives:

Drawing down of the pond during the winter does help prevent some flooding.

Negatives:

When water level is raised in the spring it takes too long for the fish to disperse throughout the pond. In areas farther from the gate since the fish have not gotten there the midge larvae survive to mature.

With the Pond lowered and the tide gates closed the salinity in the Pond dropped to almost fresh water levels from January through early April 1993 & 1994. There was a high midge population during these years. Whereas in 1992 the tide gates were not kept closed but rather the Weir River was allowed to enter the Pond periodically during that winter. The salinity level in 1992 was higher during the winter months and the midge population lower. In general the lower the salinity during January to April, than the higher the concentration of midges.

The theory that lowering the Pond would expose more of the edge to freezing and therefore, kill the midge larvae did not seem to hold true. Instead it appears as the water level was lowered the larvae migrated to the water.

Recommendations:

(1)  To allow water from the Weir River to enter the Pond on a daily basis, whenever possible, in order to maintain a high salinity. To this end work was begun on designing an automatic tide gate which would use prototype sensors and electronic controls in combination with an electric motor to automatically open and close the gate. As of the 1994 report the ‘brain’ had been built and construction of the sensors begun. [Ed. Note:  For numerous reasons, most relating to the personal aspects of the group, the project was not completed. It is something which might be continued in the future.]

(2)  To keep the water level at least half full in the Pond to provide a viable habitat for the predators (fish) that enter the pond and to allow them to be dispersed more evenly.

(3)  The data from 1994 indicated that sewerage is still a problem with sources in both Hull and Cohasset. In Hull areas which need to be sewered include part of Richards Road, Pond Street, and Elm Street. These areas appear to have possibly three failed cesspools and two street drains that constantly deliver sewerage into the Pond. In addition 12 ½ Montana Avenue in Hull has a cesspool within 10 feet of the Pond that appears to fail whenever the water table is high. In Cohasset the recommendation was made to connect all of Jerusalem Road to sewerage and possibly to connect it to the Hull sewer system. The report noted that there are at least 2-3 failed septic systems and several pipes (street drains) that discharge into the Pond with intermittent high fecal coliform counts. To assist the towns in locating the sources of pollution the report included a Pollution Location Chart with a description of the source and a corresponding nearby street address.  As an alternative brief mention is made of an “on site wastewater treatment system”.

(4)   Improved water circulation.  Additional study is needed but should include investigating the removal of the ledge impediment and experimenting with pumping water from Black Rock Beach into the Pond in the summer.

Spring, 1996:  Tri-town sewer project approved and agreed to by Towns of Hull, Cohasset, and  Hingham. Under the agreement sections of North Cohasset bordering Straits Pond and sections of Hingham from Hull Street to the Bonnie Briar Circle will be sewered and tied into the Hull Waste Treatment Plant. At the same time the Richards Road, Elm Avenue, and Pond Street area of Hull will also be sewered. The projected end date is late 1999.

November, 1999:

Hull: Homes in the Richards Road area and the previously mentioned residence on Montana Avenue have been tied into the Hull sewer system.

Cohasset: The pipes for the sewering of the North Cohasset area have been laid. Recent word is that each of the connections is now being back-tested to make sure there are no leaks. Once testing is completed then individual homeowners will receive a letter instructing them to make arrangements for ‘hooking up’ and supposedly they will have one (1) year from the date of  the letter to actually do so.

Hingham: Ed. Note: Not sure of the status, but believe that the Bonnie Briar Circle area has been hooked up.

Prepared by: C. Anne Murray December, 1999. Updated information provided by Nancy E. Kramer June 2004.