Boston Harbor earned a widespread reputation as "the dirtiest harbor in the nation" during the 1988 presidential campaign. Well before that campaign began, though, efforts were under way to reduce the amount of pollution entering the harbor. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority was created in 1985 to undertake a massive public works program — including construction of a 1.3 billion-gallon-per-day sewage treatment plant and a sludge fertilizer processing plant — to end the decades-old practice of dumping sewage wastes into the ocean. The program will also cause water and sewer charges to rise dramatically during a fifteen-year period.

The project has raised a host of environmental and public policy issues: How should sludge by-products be disposed of or used by society? What is the proper placement of the effluent outfall for a sewage treatment plant of this magnitude discharging into Massachusetts Bay? What is the appropriate level of treatment to apply to wastewater? How can ratepayers be assured that their money is being spent on the highest environmental priorities ?

This article represents the opinions and conclusions of the authors, not necessarily those of the MWRA.



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