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Research

Turning Point in Boston Harbor Clean-Up


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Rich Signell, Mike Bothner, Debbie Hutchinson, and Marinna Martini
USGS on hand: Rich Signell, Mike Bothner, Debbie Hutchinson, and Marinna Martini witnessing the transfer of sewage flow as the Harbor outfall closes and the new offshore outfall opens.
September 6th was a memorable day in the environmental history of Boston Harbor. At a ceremony with invited USGS scientists in attendance, the world's longest tunnel for treated sewage was opened. Since then, some 380 million gallons per day have been discharged 9.5 miles offshore instead of at the harbor mouth.

Known as the Nation's dirtiest harbor in the late 1980s, Boston Harbor is showing remarkable environmental improvements following a comprehensive clean-up program that has lasted more than 11 years and has cost about $4 billion.

The switch to the outfall tunnel is one of the final steps in the program. The Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant and outfall pipe now serve as an international model for successful urban waste management.


Treated water returns to the sea
Treated water: Final view of secondary treated waste water before it enters a 25-ft. diameter tunnel and travels 9.5 miles into Massachusetts Bay where it will be discharged through hundreds of small ports at the sea floor about 100 ft. below the surface.
Throughout the program, the USGS Woods Hole Field Center (WHFC) has been an active scientific partner with State agencies and local academic institutions and has contributed basic information to address both scientific and management questions. In fact, at the opening ceremony, four WHFC folks were given honorary membership in the End-to-End Club, which recognizes those people who were with the project from the start in 1989.

Mike Bothner, Brad Butman, Rick Rendigs, and Rich Signell joined about 200 other folks named to this elite honor! Douglas MacDonald, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, also specifically thanked Debbie Hutchinson for the valuable USGS contribution to the project (nothing like a USGS hat—which she was wearing—to bring out the best in folks!).

USGS work is not finished in Mass Bay and Boston Harbor because our models of contaminant redistribution can now be tested following such a dramatic change in source location.


Related Web Sites
Boston Sewage Outfall: The Fate of Sediments and Contaminants in Massasachusetts Bay
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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