Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



The municipalities surrounding Boston Harbor are requesting that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts designate the waters of Boston Harbor as a No Discharge Area (NDA) pursuant to the Clean Water Act, Section 312(f)(3). An NDA is a body of water in which the discharge of vessel sewage, whether treated or not, is prohibited. The No Discharge Area would be called the Boston Harbor No Discharge Area.

While the waters of Boston Harbor are under the jurisdiction of a number of different municipalities, water quality issues affect the harbor as a whole. Past efforts to clean up the harbor have occurred across municipal boundaries and efforts to reduce vessel sewage inputs to the harbor should be addressed in a similar fashion. The fact that boating activity in the harbor also crosses municipal boundaries suggests that a harbor-wide approach is the most appropriate.

Vessel sewage, like many other pollutants, can be harmful to the environment when it is not adequately treated. Sewage contains high concentrations of nitrogen, a substance that can lead to algal blooms and low dissolved oxygen concentrations, which in turn can affect the health of fish, shellfish, and eelgrass beds. Sewage also contains bacteria and viruses that can make shellfish unsuitable for human consumption, can be a risk to human health and can severely restrict recreational opportunities (e.g. when swimming is prohibited at beaches due to elevated fecal coliform levels).


Application prepared and submitted by City of Boston Environment Department (Boston City Hall, 1 City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA 02201); City of Quincy Harbormaster (Houghs Neck Maritime Center, 137 Bayview Road, Quincy, MA 02169); Urban Harbors Institute (University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA 02125); and the Charles River Watershed Association (190 Park Road, Weston, MA 02493) on behalf of the City of Boston, City of Quincy, Town of Braintree, City of Cambridge, City of Chelsea, City of Everett, Town of Hingham, Town of Hull, Town of Milton, City of Newton, Town of Watertown, Town of Weymouth, and the Town of Winthrop.


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