NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cleanup Of Boston Harbor Costs Less Than Expected

December 29, 2000

Fourteen years ago the Boston Harbor was an open sewer, with treatment plants dumping tons of black sludge on the outgoing tide everyday. Today the South Boston waterfront has become the city's hottest real estate market.

President George Bush, pere, once termed the Boston Harbor the filthiest harbor in America. Bostonians scoffed when the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) promised to clean up the harbor by the end of the millennium.

  • $3.9 billion later, the MWRA has put the last piece of a historical environmental turnaround into place by putting the Deer Island treatment plant and accompanying nine-mile outfall tunnel into full operation.
  • The 24 feet in diameter outfall tunnel carries treated sewage from 400 feet under the Deer Island treatment plant 9.5 miles out beneath the ocean.
  • Openings in the last 6,600 feet of the pipe allow the sewage to escape into the ocean.
  • An engineering marvel, it is the longest one-way tunnel in the world.

Paying for the 1985 court-ordered project was not an easy task.

  • The U.S. government had stopped funding sewage plant construction, leaving customers of the MWRA to foot the multibillion-dollar bill.
  • MWRA doubled their customers' rates during the first four years.
  • Today the average customer in the MWRA service area pays $679 a year for sewer and water service, five times more than in 1985 but a far cry from the $1,200 rate once predicted.

Source: Tom Bell, "Boston Harbor: A world-class cleanup feat," Environment & Climate News, December 2000, Heartland Institute, 9 South LaSalle Street, Suite 903, Chicago, Ill. 60603, (312) 377-4000.


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