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King’s Beach Water Quality Report Card low again

Lynn and Swampscott officials say breaches in century-old sewer pipes leading to Stacey Brook are the reason for high levels of bacteria at King’s Beach. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — King’s Beach failed its report card. Again.

The water along the stretch of sand, split between Lynn and Swampscott, is at the bottom of the list on the Metropolitan Beaches Water Quality Report Card, receiving a primary beach safety score of 75 percent for 2018, vastly lower than 2017’s score of 92.2 percent. Local officials in both communities said breaches in century-old sewer pipes leading to Stacey Brook are the reason for high levels of bacteria.

“We’ve done the research, we’ve crunched the numbers, and we think Stacey Brook is the cause of the problem,” said state Sen. Brendan Crighton, Senate chair of the Metropolitan Beach Commission. “If you’re going to King’s Beach, be aware that it’s generally not safe for kids or adults to play in the water near Stacey Brook.”

Crighton said Lynn and Swampscott could draw from $20 million in statewide funding authorized under the 2018 Environmental Bond Bill, but the commission is working with the state to get the funds released. He said the latest data makes a strong case to speed up the action.

“It’s very expensive and these cities and towns have a hard time allocating these funds on their own, so we need to help them,” Crighton said. “For a long time we have had one of the worst water qualities in the entire state.”

Gino Cresta, Swampscott’s DPW director and assistant town administrator for operations, said the town was ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the discharge in 2017. The $10 million project, which consists of relining sewer lines, laterals, and manholes, will be completed in four phases and is expected to wrap up in July 2022.

“Swampscott is an old town with old clay pipes that have been in the ground for over 100 years,” said Swampscott Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald. “We have so much work to do and my frustration is that we have to do it all on the residential real estate tax. Lynn and Swampscott taxpayers shouldn’t be forced on all these burdens, we should get more state and federal funding to support the broader improvements that are needed here.”

Over the last six years, the water quality data reported King’s Beach has averaged an 83 percent “safe” score for bacteria, one slot above Dorchester’s Tenean Beach’s 80 percent. The percentage measures the number of days bacteria levels in the water are below the state’s swimming standard.

Fitzgerald said it’s a problem that can be solved, but it is a challenge faced not only by the region, but by the commonwealth and federal government as well. In a statement released Thursday, Lynn Mayor Thomas M. McGee agreed with that sentiment.

“I will continue to work with Senator Crighton, the co-chair of the Metropolitan Beaches Commission, and the state delegation to get the funds from the 2018 Environmental Bond Bill released to help our community address the persistent pollution problems that affect the water quality at King’s Beach,” McGee said.

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