Writing Contest Winners 2015-2016

First Place Winner, Grades 3-5

Kaeleen Elle Chen
Grade 5, Belmont Day School, Belmont
Ms. Grossman and Mr. Frey, Teachers

The Boston Harbor Lesson

Hello, my name is Flathead. I'm a flounder that lives in the Boston Harbor. Today is Friday December 24, 2021. I'm going to The Harbor Elementary School for Flounders. I never really understood why the Humans polluted the water, so I wanted to ask my teacher Mr. Harbor.

As soon as the other kids, whose names were Flatbed, Flatty, and Flatbody and I got to school, Mr. Harbor asked, "Does anybody know why today is a special day?"

Flatty immediately raised his fin, "Of course! Because it is my birthday! And because it is Christmas Eve!" Everybody laughed.

"A very important day indeed," nodded Mr. Harbor, "but not what I was thinking about. Does anyone else know?" he asked.

We all looked at each other and shook our heads.

"Okay," said Mr. Harbor, "today is the anniversary of the day when sludge dumping into the Boston Harbor was stopped, and that is today's lesson. We are going to learn about the waste treatment around Boston Harbor, where we live. Exactly 30 years ago, Humans stopped dumping sludge into our home. Does anyone know why?"

Flatbody raised his fin. "Because they wanted to stop doing it."

"Kind of," said Mr. Harbor, "does anyone know a different answer?"

I raised my fin. "What is sludge anyways? Is it a type of bad thing?" I asked.

“Let’s start from there,” said Mr. Harbor, “Sludge is a fancy word for human waste. Yes, it is bad for all the creatures and plants that live here."

"Yuck!" said Flatty, "that's disgusting!"

“I know it is disgusting, isn't it?" said Mr. Harbor.

"But why did the Humans pollute the water anyways? What was the point?" I asked.

"Let's start from the beginning. I think you'll understand better that way," said Mr. Harbor. "Years and years ago, in the city of Boston and cities around there, waste and sewage had nowhere to go! Then in 1876, the state of Massachusetts approved of the building of the sewage pipes. When the pipes were finished, they directed the sewage away from 18 cities into the Boston Harbor. The water here got really repulsive. In fact, the Boston Harbor was the dirtiest in the entire nation! The pollution poisoned the water in the Harbor. It blocked the sunlight and consumed the oxygen from reaching us bottom- dwelling fish. It also blocked the sunlight from the plants that freshen the water. Each species had its own trouble. We flounders developed liver tumors, skin problems, and fin rot. It was a bad problem," said Mr. Harbor.

"But how did the humans fix the problem that they made?" I asked.

"Good question Flathead! Here's how they did it. In 1952, the first wastewater treatment plants were constructed," explained Mr. Harbor.

"Plants, as in the plants that grow here in the ocean?" I asked.

"I didn't know that plants like sea grass could get rid of human waste and pollution!" said Flatty.

"No, Flathead and Flatty," said Mr. Harbor, "plants are buildings that the Humans set up to treat the wastewater so it doesn't hurt us fish and other species of animals and plants ... er, plants that are alive here."

"Then what happened?" asked Flatbed.

"Then on December 24, 1991, which we are celebrating today, sludge dumping into the Boston Harbor was halted all together. The waste treatment plants built tanks where the solids like sewage and waste sank to the bottom. The settled solids were then turned into fertilizer. Today the cleaner water is pumped through the 9.5 miles Outfall Tunnel, which was bored through solid rocks, and released into the bay through 55 different release points," said Mr. Harbor.

Now I finally understand why today, December 24th of every year is so special. Because it's the day that saved us flounders and the rest of the animals and plants that live in the Boston Harbor. Without what happened on December 24 of 1991, all of us might not be here. Because the humans stopped dumping sludge and other harmful materials into the Boston Harbor, we survived, and our home is now clean and safe.

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