• The EPA issued its annual report card on the quality of the Charles River last Friday at Magazine Beach in Cambridge. Left to right: MIT's Jamie Keith and Paul Parravano, and the EPA's Ira Leighton show the river's grade -- a B.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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MIT sponsors design contest for storm water

MIT will sponsor a design competition to develop storm water management plans that will improve the quality of the Charles River, Paul Parravano, co-director of the Office of Government and Community Relations, announced Friday.

"We believe that the competition we're planning with the Environmental Protection Agency will help produce the innovative ideas required to achieve our common goal for additional improvements in water quality," Mr. Parravano said. "Together with the EPA, we seek significant participation in the competition, followed by implementation of the winning design concept. The aim of the competition will be to resolve storm water issues from residential areas in the Charles River basin."

Details of the competition were announced at a news conference at Magazine Beach in Cambridge, during which the EPA issued its annual report card for the river. The event is part of the Clean Charles Initiative, started in 1995 with a goal of making the river safe for swimming and fishing by 2005.

The winning entry in the competition will receive a $5,000 prize plus up to $10,000 to implement the plan. The runners-up will also receive cash prizes. Applications will be available in September from MIT and the EPA. A winner will be announced in late November.

"We hope to gain from the winning concepts replicable, creative and adaptable ideas that can be implemented reasonably," Mr. Parravano said.

The competition was designed by two urban studies and design graduate students, working with EPA officials: Dan Delisi, who graduated last June, and Adam Varat.

Mr. Delisi, son of a Boston University professor from Brookline, worked on the project for two years before he graduated and moved to Fort Myers, FL to work for a design firm. "The EPA staff I worked with were constantly looking for ways to educate the public and municipalities," he recalled. "That's the whole idea of the design competition -- to create another model for storm water management that can be replicated. So all in all, it was a very exciting idea and project to work on."

Mr. Varat, who replaced Mr. Delisi, did much of the paperwork and drew up the ground rules for the competition. "From here on out, we'll be doing the planning for the competition, tasks such as finding judges, determining evaluation criteria and publicity. I think this is the fun part coming up," said Mr. Varat, who is from Santa Monica and plans to return to California after graduation this June. He will be succeeded by Alexis Bennett, a graduate student in urban studies and design from Venice, CA.

The EPA grade for the Charles River water quality was a B, the same as last year. It was the first time since the report cards had been created that water quality had not improved.

"The Clean Charles 2005 effort might be compared to running a marathon," Mr. Parravano said. "The B grade on this year's report card demonstrates that much hard work has been accomplished. These last few miles to the finish will not be easy.

"Progress will be slow, but a strong, steady approach will bring us home. Like the runner who must call on each of her muscles to keep going, we too must ask every member of our community to do their part if we are to have a chance at finishing this critical work. While this year's grade may show that we have slowed some, the groundwork has been laid by the EPA for a strong rally in the remaining time.

"Let's go get this done. When we come here in 2005, we're going in the water!"

As he spoke, the temperature at Logan Airport was 52 degrees with winds blowing at 9mph. The water temperature in Boston Harbor was 45��� F.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 2, 2001.

Topics: Civil and environmental engineering, Environment and energy


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