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MWRA Writing Contest Winners 2004-2005
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

Honorable Mention Grades 9-12
by Harris Shaikh, Grade 11
Wilmington High School, Wilmington

John Wood, teacher
Eric Tracy, principal

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Boston Harbor, located near Massachusetts Bay, is home to precious plants and animals and provides leisure and picturesque resources to those in Massachusetts and nearby communities. Despite the value that the harbor possesses in this state, it has been a victim of dangerous pollution that limits its function and beauty. For several centuries, people have dumped sewage waste and other toxic materials into Boston Harbor; it was named on of the dirtiest harbors in the country at one point. However, the government agencies such as the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority have launched programs to clean the harbor. Of the many programs and efforts, the 9.5-mile ocean outfall that opened in 2000 is, in my opinion, the most important effort to repair the harbor and must continue to be open in order for Boston Harbor to remain clean.

The Boston Harbor Project has been quite successful over the last several years and steps taken by the MWRA are indeed having a positive impact on the quality of the water. In September of 2000, a nine and one-half mile outfall was constructed to transfer effluent coming from Boston Harbor to Massachusetts Bay. It is crucial for this bay outfall to remain open because in the five years it has been in use, MWRA officials have noted extreme changes in the harbor.

Water clarity has greatly improved in the waters surrounding Deer Island at the former outfalls. Because of the newer bay outfall, the clarity of the water has doubled since the year it opened in 2000. In December of 2000, the Secchi depth of the waters at Deer Island increased from approximately 3 meters to nearly 7 meters. In addition, similar results were recorded at Nut Island outfalls. In January of 2001, the water clarity had jumped from 3.5 meters to about 6 meters. Water clarity if obviously very important to any harbor's health as clear water is esssential for any widely used body of water. Therfore, the bay outfall must remain intact in the future so that the Harbor's water near the former outfall areas may recover after years of abuse and pollution.

After the DITP discharges were terminated and the bay outfall was developed, harbor officials also saw that changes in bacteria had occurred. Since the opening of the outfall, reports show that bacteria counts were consistently lower and that fecal coliform counts had considerably decreased. Bacteria counts at former Deer Island Treatment Plant outfalls have been notably lower than Massachusetts state standards, which call for 200 colonies per 100 milliliters. Almost immediately before the bay outfall operation was initiated, bacteria counts were recorded at about 140 colonies per 100 milliliters, yet when the outfall opened, the count had drastically lowered about 10 colonies. This is an impressive statistic by itself as bacteria levels were reduced to 190 less than what the state mandated. Bacteria level is just as important as water clarity and it determines how safe the water is. The bay outfall of 2000 greatly mended the harbor's water quality as these results were soon seen harbor-wide after a few months.

The 9.5-mile bay outfall is a valuable tool that is very effective in the effort to clean and maintain Boston Harbor. Prior to the construction and opening of this outfall, forty percent of the freshwater flow into the Harbor was sewage effluent. But in September 2000, the bay outfall was opened and moved the effluent to Massachusetts Bay, thus eliminating the forty percent of sewage. Consequently, water quality will improve, healthier sea life will develop, and these benefits will be seen throughout the harbor. If the outfall continues to be in use for the next several years, the harbor will continue to enjoy improvements which have been observed over the past five years. If such improvements continue, Boston Harbor will be in immaculate shape.

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