As water levels in Mill Pond and along Mother Brook reached an extremely low level in recent weeks, neighbors are calling on the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation to act more vigilant about monitoring water levels.
Leaks at two dams on Mother Brook – one operated by the state and the other by the town – plus diverted water where the Charles River and Mother Brook connect has caused the waterway next to to become an unsightly, stench-filled, mosquito breeding ground unsafe for wildlife.
“I can’t see how it is good for any of the wildlife that relies on the river,” said Dan Hart, of the Mother Brook Community Group (MBCG). “You have trouble seeing where there is water that can sustain life in that stretch of Mother Brook.”
DCR and town officials found a branch stuck in a floodgate and a busted valve at Centennial Dam near Stone Mill Condominiums, state Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) said in a phone interview Wednesday.
“Just seeing a mud basin is a bit concerning for an awful lot of people,” McMurtry said.
DCR crews should finish repairs by Friday, McMurtry said, but it is unknown when the water level will return to normal.
“The water level, at times, has been allowed to just drop – but nothing to this extreme,” Hart said.
A DCR spokesperson didn’t return a request for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.
"[The DCR] has a sincere interest in addressing the concerns of the residents of Dedham," McMurtry said.
Despite help from Dedham’s environmental coordinator, Virginia LeClair, and McMurtry, Hart called on other groups and town boards to become involved.
“The more outcry and communications […] it’s just going to help,” Hart said. “It’s really a disgrace to see what’s come to this waterway.”
In the past, the DCR has told residents that low water levels in the summer is weather-related, but Hart and others say mismanagement and ignorance has played a major role.
Hart pointed out that “weather” hasn’t dropped the water level of the Charles River or other parts of the brook to the same extreme.
“But, if they’re not going to let water in from the Charles River, it’s not going to help the situation,” Hart said.
Mud along the enlarged banks of the brook and the pond are attracting mosquitoes, bringing a slew of garbage to the surface and causing a big stink.
“Do you want your kids down to Condon Park or outside if it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes?” Hart said.
In the future, Hart said the DCR should increase their presence in Dedham to more closely monitor the water level of Mother Brook and the condition of the dams, and treat Mother Brook more than just a waterway used for the Charles River’s flood management plan.
“Shouldn’t they be on top of where the complaints are coming from and why they reach a certain level?” Hart said.
Members of MBCG have taken the opportunity to pull trash, tires and shopping carts from Mother Brook while the water level is low, Hart said.
But he contends they shouldn’t carry all the weight.
“Why aren’t we seeing the state, the DCR, step in and help with that process?” Hart said. “It’s great to have these citizen cleanups, but I don’t think the sole responsibility for managing a waterway should be on Mother Brook Community Group, Dedham residents or the community.”