News Release Archive
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority home

March 8, 2001

Pew Oceans Commission Report Highlights Boston Harbor Project

A landmark report release in February by the Pew Oceans Commission praises the Boston Harbor cleanup as part of a broader call for new approaches to fight coastal pollution.

According to the new report, despite 30 years of progress in reducing pollution from ocean dumping, waste treatment facilities, and toxics such as DDT, America's coastal waters remain in peril. The report finds that polluted runoff from farms and cities - often far inland – has gone largely unabated or actually increased over the past 30 years, in many cases negating gains made in controlling direct sources of pollution. Scientists from the University of Maryland and University of Rhode Island point to increases in plant nutrients as the most pervasive pollution risk for estuaries, coral reefs, seagrass beds, and other coastal ecosystems.

"We've done a good job tackling many of the obvious causes of ocean pollution - ocean dumping, discharges from industrial facilities, and toxic pollutants," said Leon Panetta, chair of the Pew Oceans Commission. "Now we need to get serious about the less obvious sources of pollution that flow from our cities, farms, and ships if we want to protect our coastal waters and the communities they support."

The report cites MWRA’s Boston Harbor Project as a prime example of pollution reduction accomplishments in the United States. The report states: "Another long-term effort to restore water quality has recently come to fruition with the completion in September 2000 of a new deepwater outfall for treated effluents from the Boston region. The offshore discharge into Massachusetts Bay will result in improvements in environmental quality in Boston Harbor beyond those already achieved as a result of the cessation of sludge disposal, reductions in combined sewer overflow, and secondary treatment of wastes. Although recovery is far from complete, liver tumors in flounder are less common, mussels accumulate lower levels of organic contaminants, and bottom invertebrate communities are recovering in the harbor. Field studies and computer models predict that moving the discharge offshore to deeper waters will not increase concentrations of pollutants, including nutrients, in Massachusetts Bay."

MWRA’s Director of Environmental Quality, Dr. Andrea Rex, calls the report "an important document raising great concern about pollution in all coastal areas of country and calling for a wider range of solutions." Dr. Rex and the MWRA’s State of the Harbor report are referenced in the report.

The Pew Oceans Commission is an independent group of American leaders reviewing the nation's ocean management policies and activities. After a series of meetings around the country and considering the best scientific information available, the 20-member Commission will make formal recommendations to Congress and the nation in early 2002.

The report is available on the web at: