Is it ok to swim there?
June 9, 2011 6:39 AM   Subscribe

Ever been swimming at Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor?

I'm going to an event there this weekend, and I'm the kind of lunatic that is always in the water. I know the state monitors the water quality there, but I'm looking for firsthand accounts. How was the water? Slimy? Oily? Will I regret jumping in? I used to jump in the Edgartown harbor every day, so I have a high tolerance for boat fuel, but am concerned about the island's former use as a landfill. Thansk for any info you can give me!
posted by vrakatar to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total)
A lifelong Bostonian, I have never voluntarily entered the waters of the harbor or those of the Charles River and I intend to keep it that way.
posted by jsavimbi at 6:56 AM on June 9, 2011

I always presume if I go in the harbor, I'll come out like the fish on the Simpsons, with multiple eyeballs.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:04 AM on June 9, 2011

I swam off Spectacle Island last summer and I'm none the worse for wear as far as I can tell. The water wasn't visibly grosser than other ocean water I've swum in. (It was, however, REALLY COLD, and this was in mid-July, so I think it's probably not that comfortable right now.)
posted by in a dark glassly at 7:20 AM on June 9, 2011

I am an environmental consultant. I am not your environmental consultant. But I can say that there's no way in hell *I* would be swimming at Spectacle Island. Other parts of the harbor, maybe. Not Spectacle.

And on a related note, I wouldn't assume the water is fine because it's nice and clear and you don't see any slime or oil. The sediments at the bottom may be the real risk.
posted by pie ninja at 7:52 AM on June 9, 2011

Here's the Mass Dept. of Public Health report on Boston beach water quality, including Spectacle Island. For some reason, though, there's no current data for Spectacle, even though there is for the other beaches. More info here.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:55 AM on June 9, 2011

I swam at Spectacle Island last year. No, the water didn't appear slimy or oily, it was quite nice actually. Boston Harbor is now one of the cleanest urban harbors in the world, and the water quality is closely monitored at the swimming areas. You'll be fine, do it.
posted by makeitso at 8:08 AM on June 9, 2011

I went swimming there a few years ago, and I've been swimming off a couple of the other Harbor Islands, too. The water seemed fine -- occasionally there were little bits of odd foaminess that I tried not to think about too much. But I definitely didn't get sick or anything, and given how hot it was, I didn't regret jumping in. (Of course, given what pie ninja said, maybe I should have thought twice.)
posted by cider at 8:15 AM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: I am an environmental risk assessor for the state, but not your risk assessor. As Horace Rumpole has pointed out, the Department of Public Health monitors the water quality of beaches and Would tell you if it was unsafe.

The government, despite popular opinion, really is trying to protect health (most of the time)! There is no interest in poisoning swimmers in a national park. The sediments have been evaluated. The beaches have been evaluated. I had coworkers that got to spend time out there in a tent with chunks of asbestos that can sometimes be found around there and a fan, trying to see if it was a danger (it was not).

The water and sediment, as far as they can tell using Conservative Assumptions about Health, is safe for swimming.

All that said, it's DANG cold! So I have waded, but did not swim, off of Spectacle.
posted by ldthomps at 8:19 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: And no, I've never seen the water been slimy or oily out there or any of the other Harbor Islands. The main result of the landfill is that the beach has a lot of sea glass and sea pottery, which are really pretty.

Thank goodness that its days as a horse-rendering facility were long before even the landfill - it makes for much nicer swimming.
posted by ldthomps at 8:21 AM on June 9, 2011

I've been out there and went for a swim. It was great! I probably wouldn't want to read a chemical analysis report of the water I'd just been in, but everything went fine for me.
posted by thebigdeadwaltz at 8:33 AM on June 9, 2011

Best answer: Actually, I take what I said back in light of the fact that ldthomps has reviewed site-specific data. (The sediment thing is a good rule for post-industrial water bodies and swimming, but if there's actual sediment data, that would trump it.)
posted by pie ninja at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, and thank you idthomps. I'll splashing about, I reckon.
posted by vrakatar at 12:04 PM on June 9, 2011

Response by poster: ldthomps, of course. Sweat in my eyes.
posted by vrakatar at 12:08 PM on June 9, 2011

And by the way, we spotted many jellyfish in Fort Point Channel yesterday afternoon, so bring some vinegar with you.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:03 PM on June 9, 2011

Response by poster: Heavy rains tomorrow could effect water quality, so we shall see. I'll wear my trunks in any event. I'll bring vinegar (for my eyes) and ice. Lots of ice....
posted by vrakatar at 8:37 PM on June 9, 2011

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