Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



This report includes assessments covering the four individual watersheds that discharge into Boston Harbor from south of the City of Boston — the Neponset, Weir, Fore and Back River Watersheds — plus an assessment for those portions of the City of Boston which border the Harbor itself south of the Charles River, hereinafter referred to as “Boston Inner Harbor Watershed.” The companion to this report is the “Boston Harbor South Watersheds 2004-2009 Action Plan,” which spells out a comprehensive set of responses needed to remedy problems identified here.

This document does not cover the two major watersheds that discharge to the Harbor to the north of Boston — the Charles and Mystic River Watersheds - nor those sections of Boston that border or discharge into these watersheds. Therefore, it is not the purpose of the Assessment to analyze the health of the Boston Harbor itself, but rather to look at the environmental health of the individual watersheds from their headwaters to their discharge points into the Harbor, plus direct discharges into the Harbor from Boston.

Since MWRA began pumping sewage from Deer Island to its outfall pipe in Massachusetts Bay, most of the pollution in the Harbor itself comes from the contributions of the various rivers discharging into the Harbor and Combined Sewage Overflows (CSOs) from the City of Boston. MWRA data indicate that it is the Charles and Mystic Rivers, and not the rivers covered in this report, which are the largest contributors to the Harbor’s pollution. In any case, extensive research by MWRA has been unable to pinpoint the exact pollutant contributions coming from each individual watershed.

This report is based on a review of existing data and studies relevant to each of the watersheds, including water quality data reports, shoreline survey reports, EOEA’s Basin-wide Water Quality Strategy, relevant municipal plans, DEP reports, regional buildout analyses, Massachusetts Geographic Information Systems (MassGIS) data, and other relevant materials from non-governmental, academic, local, regional, state and federal sources.


The 2004 Boston Harbor South Watersheds Assessment and Action Plan was produced under a contract between the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and the Neponset River Watershed Association (NepRWA). NepRWA collaborated in its work with the Urban Harbors Institute of the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Boston Harbor Association, the Fore River Watershed Association, the Weir River Watershed Association and the Back River Watershed Association. In addition, a volunteer Advisory Committee provided invaluable assistance in the design, development and review of the Plan. Advisory Committee members included David Colton, Director of the Milton Department of Public Works; Wes Dripps of the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Margo Clerkin, Conservation Agent of Hull; and Nan Crossland, Executive Director of the Dedham-Westwood Water District. Finally, there was considerable public participation in the preparation of this report, including interviews with at least three stakeholders in each of the four watershed and Boston, and open public meetings to take input on the Assessments.



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