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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students work to clean Yakus Pond

Published: December 1, 2006
Section: News

On Sunday, Nov. 19, several students from the Greening the Ivory Tower class (AMST 191B) put forth an effort to cleanup Yakus Pond, more commonly known as Massell Pond. Brian Wartell 07, Matthew Kamm 09, and Jordan Bieber 07 chose this project as one of many done for this class. These three hoped to gain the support of many students, primarily freshmen, in order to cleanup the trash thrown in and around the pond. Unfortunately, the warm spring weather had ceased, and although it was not terribly cold, it proved too uncomfortable for many individuals to come outside. Nevertheless, most students passing by did have a few minutes to spare and took the time to learn about the ponds importance and functionality, the actual primary purpose of the event.

Although originally made to be a detention basin, Yakus Pond has become a rich habitat for many species, including ducks, muskrats, fish, frogs, and crayfish. In addition to supporting animal life, Yakus Pond also provides an ideal environment for several species of wetland plants, including cattails and bulrushes. Yakus Pond has also continued to fulfill its original purpose by receiving roughly a quarter of the stormwater runoff on campus. The pond is a more resilient ecosystem than the nearby wetlands and serves to protect the wetlands and Charles River by capturing and filtering harmful runoff. The cattails and aquatic organisms absorb and break down some of these harmful compounds. After being significantly purified, the water flows out of Yakus Pond into the nearby wetlands and is retained there.

Yakus pond is in much better shape than people realize. It serves its function well and, although the water is certainly contaminated for human use, it is a relatively healthy ecosystem for many animals. Yet, one major problem that the pond is currently facing is that of overgrowth. Watercress plants (often considered invasive) have grown rampantly in the past year and are not only detrimental aesthetically, but are perhaps limiting the flow of the pond. Although the flow will actually not be hampered much (being that it will narrow and intensify to overcome the watercress), it still is an issue that should be addressed. However, since Yakus Pond is connected to a wetland ecosystem, it is regulated as a wetland itself and is therefore protected under the Wetlands Protection Act. Any physical work on the pond would require a permit from the Waltham Conservation Commission in the range of up to $15,000.

In spite of this cost, the University is hoping to plan a major renovation of the pond within the next few years. This resolution has largely been driven by the constant attention that the pond has received, especially from those living in Massell.

Editors Note: Brian Wartell is a member of the class described in the article.