Love that Dirty Water?

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By Phil Colarusso

Since 1966, when The Standells recorded “Dirty Water”, millions of fans each year at Fenway Park have sung along to the chorus “love that dirty water, ooh Boston you’re my home”. For decades, those lyrics accurately portrayed the condition of Boston Harbor. Bostonians almost seemed to view the condition of the harbor as a badge of honor and a reflection of the city’s blue collar grittiness.

After a tremendous effort by literally thousands of people and the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars, the recovery of Boston Harbor) is an amazing success story. At one time people were advised to get tetanus shots if they came in contact with the water, Boston Harbor now hosts International Cliff Diving competitions and swim races. At one time, fish were covered with obvious tumors and lobsters suffered from black shell disease, now a diversity of marine life exists. Deer Island Flats, once considered one of the most contaminated sites on the planet, now supports eelgrass, one of the most sensitive marine species in our region.

The EPA dive team has recently been documenting some of these positive changes. We’ve conducted dives around a number of the harbor islands and off of Runway 33 at Logan Airport. Improved water quality has allowed a plethora of marine life to flourish. Most Boston residents do not realize that they live on the edge of a true wilderness. A quick peek below the surface reveals sharks, striped bass, harbor seals, lobsters, harbor porpoises and even the occasional wayward humpback whale. Perhaps it is time to retire the iconic Standells hit in favor of The Beatles song Octopus’s Garden. Not quite as catchy for the Fenway faithful, but in 2013 much more accurate.

More info on visiting Boston Harbor islands

About the author: Phil Colarusso is a marine biologist in the Coastal and Ocean Protection Section of EPA New England, and is an avid diver. He’s living the dream in Wenham with wife JoAnn, two kids, dog and white picket fence.

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