Quincy Questions Release Of Sewage Into Bay

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As flood waters recede from this week's torrential 10 inches of rain, some city leaders in Quincy are questioning a decision made by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority at the height of the storm.

With its facilities overwhelmed, the MWRA choose to empty 15 million gallons of untreated waste water into Quincy Bay from its treatment facility on Nut Island. The Water Authority said it was a choice between pumping the excess sewage into the sea or letting it back up into area homes.

Now state environmental officials are reviewing the dump. Former Massachusetts Development Secretary Douglas Foy called the effect "probably pretty insignificant," but allowed, "you probably wouldn't want to be swimming in that water today or tomorrow."

Foy noted that Boston Harbor used to be one of the dirtiest harbors in America but is now among the cleanest. "It's pretty readily able to clean itself up," he said. "The harbor has made unbelievable strides in the past 25 years."

MWRA chief Fred Laskey said he'd release the sewage again if given the choice. Foy said the alternative would have been drastic. "To have the plant blown up — literally filled up and destroyed," Foy said.

Foy vouched for the performance of storm surge infrastructure in Eastern Massachusetts, and said the multi-billion dollar systems almost always work in accordance with expectations.

"But there will be these infrequent moments when they're simply not able to take all that gets sent their way," he added. "You would hope we don't have too many storms with 10 inches of rain in two days."

This program aired on March 18, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.