A part of the thirty-two mile long Sudbury River lies just north of Concord Academy’s campus. The river is known for being contaminated with mercury, which was discovered in the 1970s. Despite this, many activities such as canoeing and fishing are still permitted. However, it is unsafe to swim in or eat fish caught in the river.
The mercury in the river comes from the Nyanza chemical waste site in Ashland, Massachusetts, which lies south of Concord. Sediments from the chemical waste site flow into the river, contaminating the water with mercury. Efforts have been put in place to attempt to clean the river. The Nyanza Chemical Company, who run the waste disposal site, have a Natural Resources Damages Fund, which funds efforts to remove damaging sediments and nutrients from the river. Organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency provide information on the river and its pollution, helping to inform residents of the towns the river runs through of what they can do to help.
However, despite these efforts, the river remains unsafe. While fishing is permitted, there is a strict catch and release policy for all fish caught in the river between Ashland and Concord. This means that no fish can be eaten, and must be released back into the river after being caught. Because these fish live in an environment with high mercury levels, consuming them could lead to mercury poisoning. The catch and release policy was enacted due to this fact.
Additionally, swimming is not advised in the river. The water quality does not meet the state standards to swim, due to mercury contamination and other types of pollution. However, there are still fun activities surrounding the river. There are many walking and biking trails, which are particularly nice in the fall, winter, and spring. In the summer, the overload of nutrients due to the pollution causes an overgrowth of plants, which rot and create an odor, making recreational activities less enjoyable. Other activities permitted on the river include kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing. CA occasionally runs canoeing trips on the river, granting students a safe and fun way to see the Sudbury River in our backyard.