Monday, March 22, 2010
Sewage release avoided a far worse outcome
March 20, 2010
THE MASSACHUSETTS Water Resources Authority dumped 15 million gallons of untreated sewage into Quincy Bay earlier this week, and every gallon was a blessing in disguise. If not for the careful monitoring of the Nut Island sewage screening facility at the height of the recent powerful storm and the timely decision to redirect the mixture of storm water and sewage away from the plant and into emergency outfalls, hundreds of homes from Quincy to East Milton would now be polluted with raw sewage.
The ferocious weekend storm tested the capacity of the water authority, which recorded one-day records for sewage screening at Nut Island and sewage treatment at Deer Island. The system held up remarkably well in a storm with rainfall totals on par with Hurricane Diane in 1955.
Some Quincy officials, however, remain skeptical of the discharge decision and are demanding an investigation. There’s nothing wrong with a review by state and federal environmental officials. But it’s a safe bet that the modest discharge saved the Nut Island facility from flooding and electrical failure that could have taken months to fix. The decision also protected a main sewer line that runs from Framingham to Quincy.
A little context is in order here. In the 1980s, over 200 million gallons of raw or barely chlorinated sewage discharged directly into Boston Harbor every day, creating one of the filthiest harbors in the nation. A subsequent $4 billion, publicly-funded clean-up transformed the harbor, which is now fishable and swimmable on nearly every dry day. In the broader view of Boston Harbor, a 15 million gallon spill during a monster storm is a drop in the bucket. And it won’t affect swimming quality one whit even this week. Normal weather patterns and tidal flushing see to that.
“I made the call, and it was the right call for the environment and the public’s health,’’ said water authority executive director Frederick Laskey. Even the strictest harbor advocates concur.
Bruce Berman, the bay watcher for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, said it wasn’t a deal with the devil that Laskey made — “It was the deal of the century.’’
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The recent discharge of 15 million gallons of sewage into Boston Harbor and Quincy Bay is good news.
Though no one is proud of the fact that the MWRA was forced to release any sewage at all, let's put in context. Before the clean-up we routinely discharged millions of gallons of largely untreated human waste into Boston Harbor nearly every day.
On Monday, in the worst rainstorm in recent memory, The MWRA treated a record amount sewage in a single day before they finally exceeded the capacity of the system - and were forced to make a controlled release of about 15 million gallons.
Do the math yourself - 2,000,000 x 365 is 730 million gallons of sewage a year before the Boston arbor Clean-up- compared to 15 million for all 2010.
From experience I expect that water quality in the harbor will rebound within 24 -48 hours - though the sheer volume of stormwater may continue to cause elevated levels of bacteria until the rivers recede.
As the long-time spokesman for Save the Harbor /Save the Bay, the region's leading voice for the restoration and protection of Boston Harbor, the waterfront, the harbor islands, and our region's public beaches I am never happy about any discharge of waste in to the marine environment.
Is there more work to do? You bet, on the beaches, and in the rivers - as we work to reduce storm water discharges and/or cso's that have made some of our region's beaches unsafe for swimming on too many hot summer days.
I live, work and play on the Harbor and the Bay. With all due respect to my readers with sensitive ears, sometimes "sh*t happens, as it did on Monday, and will again from time to time - and perhaps with increasing frequency, if the current weather patters continue.
That said, the system worked as promised - and the MWRA should be applauded for the extraordinary success they have achieved here on Boston Harbor, and not criticized for their performance during this extraordinary series of storms.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Now check out this short video "Boston Harbor is Water Power" and see what a remarkable job Save the Harbor / Save the Bay has done restoring and protecting Boston Harbor, our waterfront, the harbor islands, the region's public beaches and the marine environment.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Politics, Public Relations, and Public Policy: The Boston Harbor Clean Up MET AD 893
Offers a unique investigation of how business, advocate groups, environmentalists and government can affect the outcome of large projects through negotiation, regulatory process and interaction. Students gain insights into the legal, social, environmental, and historical context that led to the $4 billion dollar twenty-year project that took the Boston Harbor from a sewage infested environment to a swimmable national park. The instructor, Mr. Berman, has served as communication director and spokesman for Save the Harbor/Bay for over ten years. He is one of the region's foremost experts on the restoration as well as the flora and fauna of the Harbor area. Intensive course. 4 cr.
This course was featured in the BU Bridge: Learning about the Boston Harbor Cleanup from the waterway's eyes, ears, and mouthpiece.
Summer 2 (June 30-July 16):
Wed., June 30: 6-8 p.m.
Fri./Sat./Sun., July 9-11: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Wed./Thurs./Fri., July 14-16: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
From Periwinkles to Pilot Whales: Investigation on Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay MET ES 141
Examines the flora and fauna of the Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay ecosystems on the beach, at the shore, in the Harbor Islands, and on the waters of Boston Harbor and Mass Bay. With 50 miles of protected water, four sheltered bays, seven river systems, dozens of islands, and a nine-foot average tide, Boston Harbor is one of the most diverse urban ecosystems in America. Students keep daily records of their experiences, record and analyze data for a research paper, and learn to use GIS Datalayers, species maps, and field work guides. 4 cr.
Summer 2 (July 26-August 6):
B1 Mon., July 26: 6-8 p.m.
Fri./Sat./Sun., July 30-August 1: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Wed./Thurs./Fri., August 4-6: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.