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Political Waters: The Long, Dirty, Contentious, Incredibly Expensive But Eventually Triumphant History of Boston Harbour: A Unique Environmental Success Story

By: Eric Jay Dolin

296 pages, 40 illus

University of Massachusetts Press

Hardback | Dec 2004 | #148049 | ISBN: 1558494456
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NHBS Price: £31.95 $42/€36 approx

About this book

A lively account of the centuries-long struggle to clean up one of the nation' s most polluted bodies of water - Boston Harbor. It served as a colonial gateway to the world, witnessed the Boston Tea Party, and helped Boston transform itself from an outpost of a few hardy settlers into a bustling metropolis and self-proclaimed hub of the universe. Yet for hundreds of years, Eric Jay Dolin points out, Boston Harbor was also a cesspool. Long before Bostonians dumped tea into the harbor to protest English taxes, they dumped sewage there. As the Boston area grew and prospered, its sewage problems worsened, as did the harbor's health, to the point where in the 1980s it was considered the most polluted harbor in the country and ridiculed as the "harbor of shame. " Then, in one of the most impressive environmental comebacks in American history, Boston Harbor was dramatically cleaned up. All it took was two lawsuits, two courts, dozens of lawyers, the creation of a powerful sewage authority, thousands of workers, millions of labor hours, and billions of dollars. Sewage management is rarely as compelling and exciting as higher profile environmental issues such as global climate change, preserving endangered species, or protecting tropical rainforests. But it can be, as Dolin shows in this engaging narrative account. Boston's struggle to deal with its sewage is an epic story of failure and success, replete with colourful characters, political, bureaucratic, and legal twists and turns, engineering feats, and massive amounts of money. In the end, success hinged on the often overlooked yet monumentally important act of responsibly disposing of the waste people produce every day.

Eric Dolin does an exceptional job of bringing the history of Boston Harbor to life and describing the dramatic development and evolution of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. The book is very well written and entertaining, and is an excellent addition to the literature on the cleanup of Boston Harbor. - Steven G. Lipman, special projects coordinator, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection; "An extremely well researched and comprehensive overview of the cleanup of Boston Harbor. Dolin's work will be of valuable assistance for researchers and numerous others for years to come." - Michael R. Deland, former regional administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New England Region"

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An independent scholar and freelance writer, Eric Jay Dolin earned his Ph.D, at MIT. He is author of the Smithsonian Book of National Wildlife Refuges and other books on the environment.

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