Boston Ground Water Trust
Deteriorated groundwater levels are gradually destroying underground wood pilings, the
foundation of structural support for buildings. This is an environmental condition unique
to metropolitan Boston that threatens neighborhoods, homes, and other historic buildings.
In some instances this hazard has struck suddenly as when houses in Chinatown and the
Fenway were lost in the 1970's. It occurred more slowly on Beacon Hill's Brimmer Street in
the 1980's. Sometimes it has been repairable as at the Boston Public Library - McKim
Building in 1929. In far too few instances was it identified early enough and mitigated as
at the Trinity Church in Copley Square.
It is now known that over 2,000 acres of metropolitan Boston are vulnerable to foundation
damage from deteriorated groundwater levels. Since massive repairs were made to the Boston
Public Library in Copley Square, it has been feared that negligent management of
groundwater levels could devastate woodpile foundations in this area. Fenway, Chinatown,
South End, Beacon Hill, Bay Village and Back Bay residents and owners are concerned about
preservation of entire historic neighborhoods built in the 19th Century.
Mayor Menino has taken the lead in addressing this issue by his recent appointments to the,
re-instituted, Boston Groundwater Trust, which had become moribund in the mid 1990's.
Until now, little public policy attention has been directed toward this "out of sight / out
of mind" catastrophe in the making. Monitoring of water levels, long advocated by
geo-technical engineers familiar with deteriorating below-grade condition of these
buildings, now has begun under auspices of the Boston Groundwater Trust.
The Trust has created a partnership with a group of concerned geo-technical engineers and
currently utilizes an agreement with Wentworth Institute of Technology to provide technical
assistance and labor through their Co-op program. Existing monitoring wells are being
inventoried and scheduled for reading of water levels six times per year. This data is
being compiled into a computerized base of information that will be made available to the