, Newburyport, MA

January 16, 2013

A poor grade

NHS class finds Bartlet Mall's Frog Pond needs care


---- — NEWBURYPORT — Though Frog Pond is currently coated with a layer of ice, the drive to clean the water there and bring wildlife back to the city landmark continues.

And a group of Newburyport High School students are among those lending a hand.

Walt Thompson, chairman of the Bartlet Mall Commission, yesterday awarded high-school students here with a certificate of appreciation for their work taking samples, documenting problem areas and offering possible solutions.

The students are studying environmental science with teacher George Masterson.

“You are doing a good job for the city,” said Thompson, at a presentation at the high school. “We need to have documentation on what is wrong so we can make it better, and you are doing that.”

Mayor Donna Holaday, who attended the presentation, also commended the students for “taking data and developing valuable information. I like the partnership between students in the high school and members of a municipal commission.”

Students Jessica Uhlig and Astrid Burnham-Alouat made the presentation based on figures gathered in late summer and fall. Their findings stated that the clarity of the water is poor. And the pond’s shallow, turbid levels make it difficult for aquatic plants to survive.

A major factor in the pond’s poor health is the dissolved oxygen content. Testing revealed that the amount of DO was low, making it difficult for fish to breathe.

It was said that cooler water holds more oxygen than warm water, and efforts should be made to provide more shade around the concave, 2-acre pond.

One force contributing to the poor health of the pond is the amount of damaging runoff that enters the water, students said. Leavings from pets end up in the water. So do the droppings of birds — many of them fed by residents — which is another contributing factor.

“We might have to say, `Don’t feed the ducks and geese,’” Masterson said. “That would involve a change in behavior, but we’ve got to make changes so the health of the pond improves.

“It’s called the Frog Pond, but there are no frogs.”

Students said the nearby courthouse also is a cause of concern. Fouled water and bird droppings fall from the roof and drain directly into the pond.

Students have suggested a rain-barrel system adjacent to the courthouse, so that water could be filtered before it enters the pond.

Thompson said his commission is attempting to raise money to buy pumps and aerators that will force oxygen into the water system.

Students completing Masterson’s course are asking local adults to cooperate in seeking improvements.

“As a key attraction in the city, the Frog Pond is a historical place where grandparents once took their children to stroll and fish,” senior Samantha Whalgren wrote.

“By having the citizens of Newburyport do their part, future grandchildren will be able to fish and enjoy the beautiful sight of the Frog Pond and it can once again be a source of civic pride for the whole town.”