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BOSTON (Oct. 7, 2022)—Today at an event in East Boston, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox joined EPA Regional Administrator David Cash, Senator Ed Markey, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Mayor of Boston Michelle Wu, and others to feature Boston Harbor – the history of its cleanup and the investments for the future – as a national success story and part of the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act celebration tour.

“When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972—with an overwhelming bipartisan majority—it charted a new path for America’s waters. As a result, we have seen transformational progress over the last 50 years—waters that were once polluted are now fishable and swimmable,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “President Biden and Congress have laid the foundation for the next 50 years of progress by investing $50 billion in EPA’s water programs through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

“The cleanup of Boston Harbor was transformational for the city of Boston,” said EPA Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “Access to a swimmable and fishable harbor is now a vital part of our culture, and one we must protect and extend to every community – especially those who have been historically underserved.”

Five decades of Clean Water Act implementation have reduced direct pollution discharges to our nation’s waters and improved wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. This progress was built on strong partnerships between EPA and state, local, and Tribal governments, as well as community and environmental organizations, industry, and agriculture.

Boston Harbor was once one of the most polluted harbors in the country. Thanks to tireless efforts by federal, state and local officials as well as community and environmental organizations, it is now both fishable and swimmable. There is still work to be done to protect these resources, and ensure it is accessible and safe for Boston communities, including those who have historically faced environmental injustice. To that end, EPA is making historic investments in water infrastructure across the country through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These investments are the foundation for the future of clean water in places like Boston and its surrounding communities.

“Thanks to billions of dollars in federal and state investments in partnership with our communities, the Boston Harbor has been transformed from one of the dirtiest harbors in the country to one of the cleanest,” said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. “The harbor is now a safe and beautiful destination for recreational and economic opportunities. We have much to celebrate, but also more work ahead to ensure the harbor remains accessible to all communities, particularly those that have shouldered the disproportionate burden of pollution and climate change impacts.”

“The days of the Boston Harbor being used as a polluter’s paradise are long over. Thanks to the last 50 years of the Clean Water Act, Boston Harbor is now one of the cleanest harbors in the United States,” said U.S. Senator Edward Markey. “With climate change causing summers to be hotter and longer than ever before, it is vital that people have access to safe, clean waterways. I look forward to working with the EPA to continue to protect our waterways and expand access to historically underserved communities.”

“Climate justice is a racial, health, and economic justice issue, and the Boston Harbor is a beautiful example of what happens when we make bold, intentional federal investments that make our communities safer and more resilient,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “I’m proud to join the EPA, Senator Markey, Mayor Wu, and local leaders to celebrate the successful impact of the Clean Water Act on Boston and recommit ourselves to confronting the climate crisis head-on.”

“The extensive cleanup of the Boston Harbor is a tremendous example of the dedication and commitment among federal, state, and local partners to improve water quality and providing environmental, public health, and economic benefits,” said Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “The Baker-Polito Administration has made it a priority to invest in clean water programs and projects across the Commonwealth so that we continue to protect special places like Boston Harbor and our many other water resources for residents and visitors to enjoy.”

“As a coastal city, Boston is creating a resilient, climate-ready waterfront that advances priorities for open space, mobility, affordable housing, social and racial equity, and natural resource conservation,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. “I’m proud to join our federal, state and local partners to mark the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and recommit to advancing our climate goals by creating healthy and resilient communities.”

EPA has been touring the country highlighting the tremendous impact of the Clean Water Act. The agency is also collaborating with its partners to chart a course for the next fifty years of progress for clean water. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has provided a historic investment in water infrastructure, including $12.7 billion through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund programs that were established by the 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act. This funding is a significant investment in the future of clean water in the country. And our investments in improved, resilient infrastructure will have positive impacts on our waterways for years to come.

What They Are Saying:

“The Boston Harbor cleanup of the 1980s and 1990s is a phenomenal example of how we can accomplish the unthinkable by working together,” said Kathy Abbott, president and CEO of Boston Harbor Now. “Its impact on our lives, and the city and region, is a reminder that with that same spirit of partnership, we can tackle this century’s climate crisis.”

“We celebrate the Clean Water Act everyday as a small grassroots coastal stewardship organization in East Boston, but today we are truly enthusiastic to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the CWA alongside our local, state and federal partners,” said Magdalena La Battaglia, Executive Director of Harbor Keepers. We spent many hours engaging with and empowering hundreds of local residents on the importance of fostering local coastal stewardship of the Boston Harbor, through shoreline clean-ups, waterfront advocacy and coastal educational initiatives. We could not have done that and more without the monumental task and success of the Clean Water Act’s protection of our waterways for 50 years.”

“The Clean Water Act is a critical tool in the fight for clean water, however by itself no law is enough to guarantee environmental victories. If it were, every harbor in the nation would be as clean as Boston Harbor is today. Sadly, many are not,” said Bruce Berman Director of Strategy & Communications at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay. “The best protection we have is an unassailable and enduring consensus of thousands of people from every community and all walks of life who believe in the power of clean water to transform communities and improve people’s lives. That’s precisely what we have created here in the Bay State, where access to clean water is a core family value.”

“Used for centuries as an open sewer, a clean Boston Harbor now stands as a testament to the transformative power of the Clean Water Act,” said Brad Campbell, President of Conservation Law Foundation. “Waters that were once a public health nightmare are now the centerpiece of Boston’s economic rebirth, but there is still more to do. The climate crisis is threatening to erase hard-earned progress, adding to the urgency and importance of the Biden Administration’s recent steps to curb pollution in the rivers flowing into Boston Harbor.”

“Every Friday each summer about 100 kids and teens in our program sail to a harbor island, jump off the boat & swim ashore. It wouldn’t have been safe to do that 50 years ago – or even 30 years ago,” said Alex DeFronzo, Executive Director of Piers Park Sailing Center. “The Clean Water Act and the Boston Harbor Cleanup are beautiful examples of repairing a past wrong and looking toward the future. With bold leadership, we can have a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. The historic investments in the EPA give me great hope for the future.

“We are proud to be part of this celebration,” said MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey. “The Deer Island Treatment Plant embodies the essence of the Clean Water Act. In one generation, this state-of-the-art facility has transformed the dirtiest harbor in the country into a regional jewel.”

“Thanks to a cleaner Boston Harbor, once-vacant waterfront lands have now been transformed with housing; parks, open spaces, and a HarborWalk public access system; recreational and cultural facilities; and jobs such as in wind technology testing,” said Vivien Li, President of The Boston Harbor Association from 1991-2015. “While the progress to date as a result of the Clean Water Act has been very impressive, there is still more to be done to ensure a clean, resilient, and accessible waterfront benefiting all people, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a critical piece in making that goal a reality.”

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