Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Infrastructure Chronicles -- Volume 9

As people in Boston enjoy a beautiful holiday weekend, it is now possible to swim at the City's beaches without fear of contamination or disease. Such was not always the case.

The Boston Harbor Association recently held a celebration of the the 25th anniversary of the Federal Court Order that resulted in the Boston Harbor Cleanup. (Long-time clean water advocate and TBHA president Vivien Li is seen in the picture here.) That such a court decree was necessary to carry out this pollution control project is a terrible reflection on the state's Executive and Legislative branches' inaction of many years; but the success of the ultimate effort is a tribute to the many people who made the project happen.

Peter Shelley, of the Conservation Law Foundation, writes a summary here on the CLF blog. In short, the metropolitan area's wastewater treatment plants were neglected for decades, polluting area rivers, beaches, and harbor. The lost benefits to the area's residents are incalculable.

Now, the waterways are swimmable and fishable again, leading to a revitalization of the riparian and coastal areas.

Will we learn from the lessons of this era? Will we learn that there is a societal cost, a hidden tax, when infrastructure is neglected? Will we learn how to maintain a political constituency for these essential services?


Anonymous said...

I am no economic nor political sophisticate, but wouldn't it seem that infrastructure investment would have been a perfect fiscal stimulus in the great job loss recession (and jobless recovery, too) of 2008? Particularly since it was a related industry, construction, which suffered the most job losses.....


Dave Wolfe said...

When Government fails to do what is needed, ordinary citizens step in. An excellent example of this actually takes place tonight. Mass Oyster is a small group which is involved in using oysters to help clean up the harbor. Yes, I know they are both small and quite tasty (ours are not for consumption)but left to themselves, each oyster can grow to the size of a mans shoe and will filter up to 30 gallons of water each day. Early this evening (7:30) we will be placing seed oysters called "spat on shell" near our current bed of caged oysters. If you'd like to see it happen or be a part of it, we'll be right across from the Constitution Marina at the mouth of the Charles River. Radio Station WBUR is also supposed to be there. Alternately, you can find us on the web at