But along the way, people began to take notice of their environment. The unpleasant sights and smells of Boston harbor could not be ignored.
“Our beautiful city is almost encircled by the mouths of sewers discharging their contents … the sewer gases… absolutely dangerous to breathe….” “…a stench so strong as to arouse the sleeping, terrify the weak, and nauseate and exasperate everybody….” Boston City Board of Health - 1874
Newer technology began to affect nature in faster ways, creating larger amounts of pollution. Raw Sewage!
In 1972, the United States Congress had passed a law known as the Clean Water Act. The law was ignored in Boston Harbor! People began to work with local groups and governments, trying to stop this pollution and protect the environment
By the 1980’s, Boston Harbor was called the most polluted harbor in the USA!
In the summer of 1982, Bill Golden, a man from Quincy, was jogging along Wollaston Beach. He stepped in what he thought was brown jellyfish. It was not jellyfish. It was human waste, and it was all over the beach! “As I realized what I had stepped in, I felt nauseated. Then I got angry.” Citizens, people like yourself, began to demand that these laws be enforced.
Bill Golden’s anger turned to action. And he was not alone. Many others came forward to help the Boston Harbor including a powerful judge, Paul Garrity from Jamaica Plain. He called himself the “Sludge Judge”, and he made big things happen.
“Boston Harbor is... visibly polluted primarily because of the discharge of sewage...the damage to that environment and to the creatures who live in it may very well become irreversible..”
In 1984, a new state agency was created, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. It was created to clean up the Boston Harbor.
Deer Island had been home to a large prison. It was torn down.
But during this time, sewage was still being dumped into the harbor, violating the federal Clean Water Act. Concerned citizens filed lawsuits to make sure the law was carried out. Another judge, federal judge David Mazzone stepped in.
“The Court and the public must be able to hold..individuals and agencies responsible …this Court has jurisdiction to protect the cleanliness of the Harbor and the safety of the citizens who enjoy and use that Harbor…”
But these judges could only make the clean-up happen because thousands of citizens were behind them!
Construction of the Deer Island sewage treatment plant began in 1988.
It took 14 years to complete. It was built in your lifetime! It cost 3.8 billion dollars. That’s $3,800,000,000! It also cost five lives - five construction workers died building the plant and the tunnels.
But… the Boston Harbor is not all better. A problem that went on for 350 years isn’t totally solved in less than 30 years. Some people still throw trash is the harbor, and some of that winds up on the islands.