MWRA Writing Contest Winners 2004-2005
Honorable Mention , Grades 6-8
Kathleen Burke, teacher
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In 1986, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the construction of a new and better wastewater treatment plant at Deer Island (a 210-acre peninsula connected to Winthrop, Massachusetts by a strip of land). The entire Boston Harbor Project consisted of two new headworks and supporting facilities, 15 miles of undersea tunnels, and a sludge-to-fertlizer facility as well as the nation's second largest treatment plant. At the peak of construction, 3,000 workers commuted daily to Deer Island and they worked 21 million hours without any labor strife disturbances. I think the most important factor in the revitalization of Boston Harbor was the Deer Island Treatment Plant.
The Deer Island Treatment Plant that opened in 1968 was outmoded, and could only provide primary treatment of wastewater (the removal of 60% of solids and up to 40% of toxic materials and the reduction of pollution by only 35% as measured by biochemical oxygen demand). Most waste was untreated or very poorly treated and was emptied directly into Boston Harbor. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) took over the plant in 1985. Things started to change for the better.
In January 1995 the primary treatment facility was opened and the secondary plant opened in August 1997. Secondary treatment results in the removal of 90% of solids and 50-85% of toxins, reducing biochemical oxygen demand pollution by 90%, further purifying wastewater. The 1.3 billion-gallon-daily treatment facility handles wastewater from all the MWRA sewer communities. After the wastewater goes through a series of pipes, it reaches Nut Island Headworks, where the coarse material and grit is removed. Then, it travels through a 5-mile Inter-Island Tunnel to get to Deer Island.
Here, wastewater is separated from the scum and sludge. It is exposed to oxygen, promoting natural bacteria, disinfected, sent to the 9.5-mile long outflow tunnel and released into the deep waters of Massachusetts Bay. With a diameter of 24 feet, this is the largest single entry tunnel in the world. The sludge is condensed to remove some of the water and then sent to a sludge-to-fertilizer plant in Quincy. Another byproduct, methane gas, is sent to a thermal power plant and used for emergency power.
There have been so many improvements in Boston Harbor as a result of the Deer Island Treatment Plant. Clean water is returned to the environment in a neutral way. The fertilizer pellets are used in places like Florida and Texas as well as New England where they are known as "Bay State Fertilizer." There has been a miraculous return of a aquatic life: mussels, kelp, sea urchins, anemone, harbor porpoises and seals, and healthier winter flounder. Swimming is once again common in the harbor because bacteria counts are lower.
In conclusion, I think the reconstruction of the Deer Island Treatment Plant was the most important factor in the revitalization of Boston Harbor. It cleans the water more thoroughly than the plant that was opened in 1968. That feature, the diffuser system which deposits the clean wastewater far out into Massachusetts Bay, and the useful byproducts of methane gas and fertilizer pellets have led the Boston Harbor Project to be a big success.
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