By Elizabeth N. O'Brien

The Boston Harbor is filthy due to past and illegal dumping, when people did not know that dumping in the ocean was bad. Today, we are paying for our ancestor's past mistakes. To clean-up the Boston Harbor, the MWRA is building a new effluent tunnel further out in the ocean. The Deer Island Treatment Sewage Treatment Plant which provides primary and secondary treatment; these two levels of treatment work together to ensure treated effluent meets water quality standards.

By 1660, all imports from England to the colonies passed through Boston Harbor. Shipbuilding also began very early in the development of the colonies. Boston was an important port and was composed mainly of wharves and docks. Being such a busy port, the Boston Harbor became polluted. As early as 1634, Boston was prohibiting the dumping of garbage or fish and if found violating this law, there was a five-shilling fine. In 1796, it was reported that an illness identified as a malignant typhus outbreak was due to foul substances lodged about the wharves and docks. Illness from the Harbor pollution has been a problem for a long time. The Boston Harbor has been closed to swimmers for almost 100 years, because of the effects that the water could have on your body.

In 1878, Boston acquired Moon Island to hold the city's sewage. Twice a day, the gates to the facility were open with the outgoing tide and the sewage flowed into the Harbor. This continued until 1992. The first steam-driven sewage station was built in 1889 in East Boston and then another on Deer Island in 1899. Although these two facilities were great improvements, they still dumped raw sewage into the Harbor. The first primary wastewater treatment plant was built on Nut Island in 1952 to serve the South Shore. Another primary wastewater treatment plant was built on Deer Island in 1968 to serve the rest of Boston. In 1986, the US. District Court Judge A. David Mazzone found that the discharge going into the Harbor was violating the Clean Water Act of 1972. The Clean Water Act of 1972 stated that by 1977, all treatment plants had to be secondary treatment plants. The Judge ordered the construction of primary and secondary facilities for the city of Boston. The MWRA's primary treatment facilities began treating wastewater and sewage from communities North and West of Boston in 1995.

Some people, however, still feel that it is acceptable to dump substances into oceans, woods, bays, etc. Some do it out of habit, but others do not want to pay the increasing disposal costs. To stop illegal dumping, states have opened hotlines for people to report illegal dumpers.

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