MWRA Writing Contest Winners 2004-2005
Third Place Grades 9-12
Gresham Gray, teacher
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I Love that Gleaming Harbor
"(I Love that) Dirty Water" by the Standells made the Charles River and Boston infamous for it's not-so-sparkling harbor. Climbing the charts in 1966, the Standells weren't wrong in their imagery; Boston Harbor was dirty. Over the years, it has undergone a metamorphosis. However, the song still rings true in many ears. We even hear it after a Red Sox victory at Fenway Park. For many people, like me, who don't visit the harbor very often, we don't really realize how much the harbor has changed. But it has.
Back in the late 1700s, numerous disease epidemics were blamed on the polluted harbor. Attempts were made to control the problem, but Boston Harbor remained filthy. The government created the MDC (Metropolitan District Commission) to deal with environmental issues. They made some headway; nevertheless, the stubborn harbor refused to be in compliance with the Clean Water Act, which required a secondary treatment process. Boston Harbor's pollution even got national attention in the 1988 presidential debate, where everyone in the country was informed of its dirty water. Alternative action was finally taken since the MDC wasn't cleaning up their act and getting down to business.
Thus, the MWRA was founded. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority took over responsibility for the MDC and the metamorphosis began. By 1997, the Deer Island Treatment Plant met the Clean Water Act regulations for the first time when sludge and scum discharges ended. The next major project was the outfall tunnel. Completed in 2000, the outfall tunnel brought the effluent water out nine and one half miles into Massachusetts Bay.
All of these improvements led to enormous changes in Boston Harbor. However, there's still one problem. Residents outside of the Boston Harbor area don't even know about it. "I Love that Dirty Water" is still ringing in our heads. I think the effort that should be continued is awareness. Personally, I did not know that the harbor was clean until Meg Tabacsko came to our school last year. She explained scum, sludge, grit chambers, settling tanks and digesters to us.
After her discussion, we traveled to Deer Island. Before all this, I thought it was the "happening" place for deer hunters. How wrong I was! With this new insight about the clean harbor, I will make a conscious effort to visit some of the new beaches.
Awareness about the harbor will help the area around it. Due to the improvements, Boston was able to host the Democratic National Convention and raise awareness nationwide. My parents, who grew up in the "dirty water" era, still joke about the harbor. When I informed them about the changes, they were still skeptical. The MWRA should continue their efforts to update the public about the metamorphosis. People who usually wouldn't venture to Boston for a swim could begin to flock there. Once people see it is clean, they will want to keep it that way. This would cut down on the typical pollution (paper, cans, etc.), and make MWRA's job easier.
Raising awareness of the "new" Boston Harbor along with the new outfall tunnel and the treatment plant at Deer Island will help to preserve the harbor. Then my children and children's children will only have memories of the "Dirty Water." They will never have to witness the diseases or the filth that resided there. But, Boston Harbor doesn't have to wait until then to be recognized. I recommend that the next song to climb the charts should be "I Love that Gleaming Harbor."