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Impact of the Boston Harbor Clean Up Project Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 14th, 2021


Boston harbor was considered to be one of the most polluted harbors in the United States many years ago. The abundant resources that were found around the harbor, coupled with the security that the harbor provided to the people encouraged people to settle around the Boston harbor area. The harbor experienced great levels of pollution which in turn became a health problem to the people. For instance, the 1796 typhus outbreak was attributed to the harbor’s pollution.

Clean-up efforts in the harbor have been advocated for since 1899. These efforts have promoted the development of a clean-up project for the Boston Harbor, which focuses on improving the local highway system, as well as renew the waterfront. The cleaning up of the Boston Harbor has played a very big role in the growth of Boston’s economy, and the nation as a whole. The economy is still expected to continue growing in the future, which is bound to make Boston’s economy one of the best in the world.


The Boston Harbor is located in the Western region of the Massachusetts Bay in the United States. The harbor is well known for its numerous islands which form the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. The clean-up efforts that have been undertaken aimed at avoiding the congestion-induced losses in the harbor, reducing the pollution, and making access to the Logan Airport much better. The need to improve the air and water quality also motivated the clean-up efforts. The Boston Harbor clean-up project had more than $4.5 billion invested into it when it started.

Constructing a wastewater treatment plant that would integrate an ocean outfall was one of the measures that were undertaken in the project. A processing plant that would recycle nutrients from the wastes into fertilizer pellets was designed, to serve as pollution-reducing components for the harbor. The project is considered to be a major investment that allowed sustainable development of the Boston Harbor waterfront, with the project’s common vision achievement being boosted by careful and good planning of the city.

This has in turn built great confidence when it comes to persuading the private sector to contribute to the development of the harbor’s waterfront through funds, talent, and time. The clean-up project has boosted the economy. Boston has now become a boating city that attracts millions of visitors annually. For instance, over 50,000 people traveled to their place of work using the ferry as a means of transport in 20071.

In addition, more than 100,000 people traveled to and from Logan Airport by water taxi. Tourism has grown in Boston, with over one million tourists (both domestic and foreign) taking part in tourism activities around the harbor. These activities include harbor tours, whale watching, dinner cruises, or excursions to Provincetown, Boston harbor islands National Park, or Salem. The current trends support the prediction that the Boston harbor is will host over 300,000 cruise passenger ships annually by the year 2009.

This number is exceeded twice the total number of cruise ships in the harbor in 2007. The economy has benefited greatly from the clean-up project, and future predictions indicate greater benefits of the clean-up to the economy.


The Clean- up Program

For many years, constant concerns that have been raised have encouraged the cleaning up of the Boston Harbor. The high rate of pollution witnessed in the harbor made it very necessary to clean up the harbor. The level of pollution in the harbor in the early 1800s was so great that people were warned not to swim in the Boston harbor waters to avoid getting boils. Several efforts have been made to clean up the harbor, though the government has in some cases been accused of not doing enough to solve the pollution problem. The American government in 1919 set up a commission known as the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC).

The commission was given the responsibility to monitor the water and sewage system in the area, as well as the functions of the East Boston, Nut Island, and Deer Island pumping stations2. The MDC funds from the government were inadequate to tackle the pollution problem, which hindered the success of the commission in its work. A special legislative report that was given by 1939 showed that the harbor conditions did not meet the public health requirements, and a recommendation was given.

The recommendation proposed the development of a $24 million dollar project that would do away with the pollution that was being experienced in Hingham and the Quincy Bays. The setting up of a treatment plant on Deer Island was done by 1968, and it operated till 1995. This plant only managed to remove 10% of the total pollutants from the water.

The introduction of a Water Clean-up Act in 1972 made it necessary for any wastewater from all publicly owned treatment plants to undergo secondary treatment. The Boston harbor due to its poor condition required this kind of treatment. The formation of the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) in 1985 was then initiated by the government. However, the MWRA did not receive funds from the state government as MDC did. This meant that the authority did not experience tax increases or budgets.

The multibillion-dollar project was then proposed, which was to be run under the MWRA and required 10 years to be constructed. The project incorporated new facilities on Deer Island and was also expected to treat wastewater from Boston’s 43 neighboring communities under a primary and secondary wastewater treatment plant. A headwork on the Nut Island was also included in the project.


In the next two decades, Boston Harbor is expected to make a greater contribution to Boston’s economy than it is now. This will however require the Boston city management and the residents to acknowledge the harbor’s importance as an asset. The people will then be able to understand the great value of the harbor to them. The analysis of Boston’s harbor clean-up project is very instrumental in providing information on the direct economic distribution of the harbor to the city’s economy. In addition, the analysis will give an insight into how the Boston Harbor value has increased since the clean-up project began in 1986.

The indirect economic and non economic factors are vital when it comes to the valuing of the harbor and the city front to the city. The future Harbor Indicators projects will be expected to examine the factors that relate to the harbor’s versatile roles and the waterfront roles. The harbor’s and the waterfront’s roles in the growth of Boston city need to be studied. Issues such as the quality of life, public access, and the use of the harbor by people are addressed by the project.

The project is undertaken by the city of Boston management in collaboration with the Boston foundation’s Indicators project. Ways in which the Boston resident’s quality of life can be improved will be explored, while the avenues through which the region can be made more exciting for business investments, tourism, and highly skilled labor will be studied. The additional investment that is necessary for the improvements can be determined when Indicator projects are put into place.

Public Investment: A Foundation for Growth

The Harbor is experiencing great transformation as a result of the public and major private investments in and around the harbor. The transformation has changed the harbor’s physical conditions which earlier showed a great level of pollution in the harbor. The harbor can now be viewed as a potential contributor to Boston city’s future success. However, some major investments have to some extent failed to be used for the economic revitalization of the harbor, which is the primary objective of the project.

The public investments towards the clean-up project since 1985 add up to around $21 billion, while other $2 billion investments are expected in the next several years. The cleanup project has managed to eliminate great quantities of sewage from the harbor, estimated to be hundreds of millions of sewage gallons3. The project has assisted greatly in water quality improvement and has restored public recreation opportunities.

The harbor’s place in the area economy is varying, but also complementary. Some components of the harbor economy include the traditional industries and the water-dependent industries. This coupled with the new numerous uses of the harbor is now redefining the waterfront’s character. Different industries that use or depend directly on the harbor include the maritime trade, local water transportation, cruising industry, boat and fishing, fish processing, and harbor-related recreation.

These industries offer great services to the city’s business enterprises as well as to the Boston area residents. The industries have also provided very many blue-collar employment opportunities to the people. For instance, the harbor-based industries have provided employment opportunities to over 4,875 people, which contribute about 0.8% of all the wage and salary jobs in Boston. Great potential for job growth in industries such as the maritime cargo, recreation, local water transportation, and cruise industries is shown by the current underlying trends.

The water-dependent industries may not be the primary source of growth around the harbor, but they are a source of non-cyclical and steady blue-collar employment for the people4. The industries are a great attraction for new investments, and the industries continue building the harbor’s unique and historic character. The harbor area is now seen as an attractive place to invest in, work, live, and play. Residential and commercial development is a driving force to the growth of the harbor’s economy.

The Past and Future: Private sector investment in the waterfront

The Boston harbor increased attractiveness and waterfront importance can be attributed to the major private investments that have been made since the late 1980s. The large-scale private investment’s understanding of the importance of the waterfronts has led to the growth in and around the harbor, which has also made the harbor very attractive. The projects that have been implemented to improve the harbor and the waterfronts have boosted the city’s economy and improved environmental conditions in and around the harbor. The waterfront area development projects cost $2.2 billion contributed by the private investors, and they were completed between 1987 and 2004.

Under the projects, different facilities were put up that included,2,720 new residential units, 1,098 hotel rooms, 285 square feet of retail space, 1 million square feet of industrial space, 1.9 million square feet of research, cultural entertainment, and institutional space, and around 3, 865 parking spaces. These facilities have improved the quality of life in Boston, as well as the growing economy. Other projects worth $1.1 billion are currently being implemented, which will provide an additional 440,000 square feet of office space, 1,210 hotel rooms, 60,000 square feet of retail space, and 1,750 units of housing5.

The Impact of the Clean-up project on the economy

The cleaning up of the harbor has promoted the growth of industries in and around the harbor. Though some traditional and water-independent industries have been there for a long time, new uses of the harbor are now being witnessed6. For instance, the removal of waste from the water has sold Boston harbor as an attractive tourist destination. The number of tourists who take part in tourist activities such as whale watching and dinner cruises has been increasing. Tourists come from Boston, other states, and even foreign countries. The growth of the tourist industry in the area has continued to increase the growth of the state’s and the nation’s economy. The building of luxury hotels in Boston attracts more investment and provides employment to the people.

The local transport industry’s growth due to the clean-up has also increased revenue generated from this industry. A great number of people use the ferry or the water taxi to travel. This has led to the growth of the transport industry which has had a positive impact on the economy. The growth of the industries has increased employment opportunities in Boston. This has improved the residents’ living standards which raises the purchasing power of people.

People can then be able to purchase other services that are offered in and around the harbor. Easy access to facilities such as office space, industrial space, retail space, and parking space has attracted investors who appreciate the good quality of life that Boston offers. The entertainment industry is one of the most rewarding in the contemporary world. Many people are now getting involved in entertainment and since Boston’s entertainment industry is growing, the economic growth attributed to it is significant.

The Future

There is no doubt that the Boston economy has grown due to the massive public and private investments in and around the harbor since 1986 and in the future, the economy is expected to continue growing. The city’s realization that the waterfront has great potential to push the Boston economy up will pave way for the implementation of new projects that will fully exploit that potential.

The next 20 years are predicted to have Boston’s economy grow, which makes the economy’s future be viewed as being very bright since it has so many water-related industries with even newer ones coming up. In our modern world, technology has been integrated into all aspects of life. The modern equipment and systems used in the industries are technologically advanced. With future predictions that the industries will continue growing in Boston, so is the technology. Boston is seen as a leader in technology, and its image transformation is encouraged by the changes that are occurring in the research and technology fields.

For instance, the opening up of 525,000 square-foot ($260 million) research building at Harvard Medical school has and will bring researchers and scientists from many disciplines within the medical field together. With such changes, technology is seen to become very advanced in Boston7. The adoption of effective and fast technologically advanced systems will be a sure means of ensuring that the Boston economy continues to grow.

Boston’s economy is considered one of the healthiest state economies in America. The city hosts fast-growing industries, which coupled with its educated workforce, have strengthened the economy. In the future, the economy is only expected to grow stronger. Boston’s economy has grown so greatly that all jobs that had earlier been lost due to the 1989-1992 recessions have been regained. The future Boston’s economy is expected to increase jobs by 62,508 opportunities, between the year 1996 and 20068. All industries in Boston are expected to continue growing in the future and they include health care, financial services, hotels, and education.

These industries are seen as “knowledge industries” which rely on the intellectual capital which up to date remains one of Boston’s great resources. The key industries will continue growing, and the growth may even out-perform Boston’s overall job growth. The growth of the industries maintains an environment that attracts the best talent, which Boston relies on to drive its economy. The intensive research work is being carried out in Boston, an element that promises development and maintenance of the so much need talent and experience in different fields.

The development of waterfronts in the future will continue marketing Boston as one of the world’s most interesting and exciting places for people to work in, live and play. More talent in people who will be attracted to Boston will provide the Boston economy with greater intellectual capital. In order to sustain the present economic growth or improve it, there is a need to have more investment.

The growth of Boston harbor due to the clean-up offers a good environment for more investment. The corporate, public, nonprofit, and community leaders in Boston will be required to work in collaboration so that the economic growth opportunities offered by the Harbor are fully taken advantage of. Determining the key elements that make a great waterfront, plus identification of metrics that will impact positively the economy are responsibilities that the stakeholders have.


For the past two decades, Boston Harbor was embarrassingly polluted and dirty. The public waste from Cape Cod to Cape Anne was deposited on the beaches. However, the present conditions of the Boston Harbor have made Boston’s future economy bright. The public and private sectors are now engaged in extensive debate about proper planning and huge real estate development in Boston.

The changes that have been experienced in Boston are greatly attributed to the clean-up projects. A study conducted by Save the Harbor/Save the Bay is a clear indication of how people are boosting the economy through consumer spending. Based on the research, an excursion passenger in Boston spends around $300 per night in a hotel, for food $200 per day, $200 on shopping, $100 on entertainment, and $50 on parking and transportation. The study established that more than $500 million dollars are spent to boost Boston’s economy annually by the boaters, the visitors, or the commuters.

The Boston Harbor is considered New England’s main economy, and it has enjoyed a $4 billion dollar project for the last 10 years. The clean-up project has encouraged development that will allow 300 acres of mixed-commercial use just next to the waterfront. Traditional fishing has been motivated by the harbor’s clean-up, containerized shipping, and the expansion of the shipping industry. The establishment of a national park after the harbor clean-up provides educational and commercial values to the people, which increases the positive impact of the clean-up on Boston’s economy.

A study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has predicted that the harbor economy is likely to encourage the construction of around 5,000 hotel rooms and 14 million square feet of commercial and residential space. The employment opportunities will increase when an estimated 60,000 permanent jobs in the entertainment retail industry and hotel industry will be created. The cleaning up of the harbor is considered to allow development, which will contribute both the wages and business income amounting to over 2.2 billion annually to the Boston economy. The Boston Harbor prospects to work as a port is most likely to attract container shipping in the harbor.

The objectives of initiating a Boston Harbor clean-up project will then be achieved successfully. Boston will then be successfully transformed into a great center of commerce and urban living, as well as a natural environment that will offer recreation and learning services to people. This has been accomplished, but much more is expected in the future. Planning infrastructure and facilities to match the large investments that are experienced in Boston has paved the way for Boston’s economic growth and prosperity. The city is strengthened by the great opportunities offered by both public and private investments.


Boston Redevelopment Authority. Web.

Dolin, E. J. “Boston Harbor’s Murky Political Waters,” Environment 34, no. 6 (1992): 6–15, 34–39.

Massachusetts Water Resource Authority. Environmental Quality Department. The State of Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay. Web.

Timothy, L and Thomas J… 1998 a vision of Boston’s revitalized waterfront and a blueprint for making it happen. Web.

Boston Harbor Association. Web.

. Web.

Boston Sewage Outfall: The fate of sediments and contaminants in Massachusetts Bay. Web.

State of the Harbor.Boston Harbor Cleanup History. Web.

Pierce C. 2003. Boston’s Biotech Moment. Web.


  1. Massachusetts Water Resource Authority. Environmental Quality Department. The State of Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay. Web.
  2. Dolin, E. J. “Boston Harbor’s Murky Political Waters,” Environment 34, no. 6 (1992): 6–15, 34–39.
  3. Timothy, L, and Thomas J… October 25, 1998, a vision of Boston’s revitalized waterfront and a blueprint for making it happen. Web.
  4. State of the Harbor.Boston Harbor Cleanup History. Web.
  5. Boston Sewage Outfall: The fate of sediments and contaminants in Massachusetts Bay. Web.
  6. Boston Harbor Association. Web.
  7. Pierce C. 2003. Boston’s Biotech Moment. Web.
  8. Boston Redevelopment Authority. Web.
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