The Green Boston Harbor (GBH) project had its genesis in large measure as a response to the designation of Boston Harbor as a No Discharge Area (NDA prohibits release of treated or untreated sewage from boats in the Harbor), but under the direction of Dr. Anamarija Frankic has since grown to encompass a broader range of related education, research and outreach projects. The recent designation of this NDA (July 24, 2008) within Boston Harbor made it clear that there is a need for more comprehensive assessment and analysis of the local environmental, as well as corresponding social and economic conditions. This designation also provides an ideal opportunity to develop guidelines for the first “green harbor” in the USA.
On October 20, 2008, the NDA monitoring project was initiated by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Boston and UMass Boston’s Division of Marine Operations, EEOS Department and the Urban Harbor Institute. With this agreement, the University will operate a City of Boston pumpout boat (P/O) for a period of five years, and the EEOS department will provide the expertise to support research, education and outreach designed to help increase awareness about the harbor’s water quality and the NDA.
It is important to acknowledge that the P/O boat pumping activity in the Boston Harbor has been “undertaken in connection with the settlement of an enforcement action, United States v. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, taken on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.”
Dr. Frankic embraced this opportunity to develop a broad GBH project, engaging more than 45 students in her spring and summer semester classes as well as establishing a set of interdisciplinary research, education and outreach sites in Boston Harbor. GBH projects at these student and citizen research sites include monitoring for marine invasive species, water quality and zooplankton sampling, and assessments at local salt marshes and public beaches. In addition, students’ projects include the Green Roofs in Boston Metro Area (BMA), Greening the Cruise Lines in Boston Harbor, and developing an Outdoor classroom at the Mather Elementary School (the first public school in the USA).
One of the overall results of the GBH project will be a detailed assessment and GIS analysis of the Boston Harbor (BH) recreational and commercial boating and pump out (P/O) activities. Our assessment will examine boating activities occurring in the BH area including numbers, types, and locations of boats, as well as their use of the P/O facilities. Included in the assessment is the adequacy and potential gaps in existing and planned P/O coverage and capacity in BH area; public awareness and knowledge about P/O importance and the role of these activities in the improvement of coastal water quality; and finally, the negative impact of waste discharges from boats not engaging in P/O activities.
In order to meet our goal of integrating natural and socioeconomic indicators, it is important that we develop surveys, questionnaires, and other social science methods to begin to understand the feedback loops between human activities and the conditions of coastal ecosystems. Paying particular attention to culture and meaning, the evaluative strategies will employ languages, formats, and outreach strategies appropriate to our expected audience; in some cases we will include selected members of the research audience in the development of survey or other research tools. Few surveys and questionnaires are already developed, IRB (Institutional Review Board) approved, and have been subsequently used with boaters while they engaged in pump out boat activity (May 1 – October 15, 2009). These surveys allow us to collect data on a variety of subjects including: boating activities; types of marine sanitation devices (MSD) aboard vessels; methods boaters regularly employ to dispose of sewage; how well boaters are informed concerning availability of P/O facilities; how often they use these facilities as well as concerns related to their use; the best ways to promote P/O services; and how much boaters would be willing to pay for P/O services.
Based on these survey results and comprehensive environmental and socio-economic assessments, the GBH project will result in recommendations for best management practices concerning three key areas: 1) improvements in the availability and use of P/O services; 2) monitoring, evaluation and enforcement of the NDA in BH; and 3) establishment of guidelines for a sustainable Green Boston Harbor.