1st Place Winner, Grades 3-5
"Rebirth of Boston Harbor: A Flounder's Perspective"
One afternoon a little yearling flounder swam home from school eager to ask his grandfather about life in Boston Harbor before sludge dumping was stopped and why it was good that it stopped. The little flounder was one of many small fish and other animals that darted through the rocks, kelp, and eelgrass just off the shores of Deer Island. His grandfather was one of the oldest fish around. He was one of the last old timers still alive today who had experienced the effects of sludge dumping.
"Not many of us old timers are left." the large flounder said. "Many fish died because of years of sludge dumping in Boston Harbor. Most of us were sick in one way or another. Liver tumors, skin lesions, and fin rot were just some of the diseases we experienced. Because we are bottom dwellers, we feed on worms and other tiny animals living in the sediment. We consumed food that was polluted by sludge and were exposed to contaminants directly through our skin. This caused our diseases. Other things like murky water and a weakened ecosystem all played a part in the problems we faced. We all live in a chain or "circle of life" Grandfather Flounder explained, "and the sludge dumped in the harbor broke that chain. Starting from the smallest of us, the microscopic plants and animals called phytoplankton and zooplankton were all affected. The shellfish got sick, because they took in tainted water when they would filter feed. The kelp and eelgrass were stressed due to water quality. Many animals too sensitive to these pollutants disappeared or moved away to cleaner waters. Even the humans were involved. They would eat the diseased fish and then they became sick. The dirty water stopped them from enjoying the beaches and the harbor. It was a terrible time for all of us."
Grandfather continued by saying, "but things began to change in December of 1991, when sludge dumping finally stopped for good. The humans had built a wastewater treatment facility on Deer Island in Winthrop, Massachusetts. We noticed that the sludge was no longer dumped in the harbor. The humans who had created this terrible problem were now fixing the problem. As the years passed with no sludge, the water became cleaner and clearer and contained fewer bacteria. Phytoplankton and zooplankton thrived, shellfish were healthier, and less fish had diseases. There is now an abundance of different fish and animals that did not live here all those years ago, and marine plant and algae life flourished in what is now considered one of the cleanest harbors in the United States. The greatest benefit of the Boston Harbor cleanup is that now the harbor is a resource for everyone. Another benefit is that most of the sludge is now converted into fertilizer to grow different crops including oranges in Florida. The fertilizer adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil, improves its texture and water holding ability. The methane gas produced in the digesters of the wastewater treatment facility is used in the MWRA's plant to run the machines that heat the buildings of Deer Island. This saves on energy costs and is fuel efficient. “So you see, grandson, from the smallest fish to the people living along the shores, all have benefited from the stopping of sludge dumping and all can enjoy the harbor around them."
"Thanks, Grandfather." I said. "That was a great story. Thanks for sharing it with me. I now understand how important the harbor cleanup is and I'm sure to get a good grade on my school project."
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