Predicting the physical effects of relocating Boston's sewage outfall

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
By: , and 



Boston is scheduled to cease discharge of sewage effluent in Boston Harbor in Spring 2000 and begin discharge at a site 14 km offshore in Massachusetts Bay in a water depth of about 30 m. The effects of this outfall relocation on effluent dilution, salinity and circulation are predicted with a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model. The simulations predict that the new bay outfall will greatly decrease effluent concentrations in Boston Harbor (relative to the harbour outfall) and will not significantly change mean effluent concentrations over most of Massachusetts Bay. With the harbour outfall, previous observations and these simulations show that effluent concentrations exceed 0??5% throughout the harbour, with a harbour wide average of 1-2%. With the bay outfall, effluent concentrations exceed 0??5% only within a few km of the new outfall, and harbour concentrations drop to 0??1-0??2%, a 10-fold reduction. During unstratified winter conditions, the local increase in effluent concentration at the bay outfall site is predicted to exist throughout the water column. During stratified summer conditions, however, effluent released at the sea bed rises and is trapped beneath the pycnocline. The local increase in effluent concentration is limited to the lower layer, and as a result, surface layer effluent concentrations in the vicinity of the new outfall site are predicted to decrease (relative to the harbour outfall) during the summer. Slight changes are predicted for the salinity and circulation fields. Removing the fresh water associated with the effluent discharge in Boston Harbor is predicted to increase the mean salinity of the harbour by 0??5 and decrease the mean salinity by 0??10-0??15 within 2-3 km of the outfall. Relative to the existing mean flow, the buoyant discharge at the new outfall is predicted to generate density-driven mean currents of 2-4 cm s-1 that spiral out in a clockwise motion at the surface during winter and at the pycnocline (15-20 m depth) during summer. Compensating counterclockwise currents are predicted to spiral in toward the source at the bottom. Because the scale of the residual current structure induced by the new discharge is comparable to or smaller than typical subtidal water parcel excursions, Lagrangian trajectories will not follow the Eulerian residual flow. Thus, mean currents measured from moorings within 5 km of the bay outfall site will be more useful for model comparison than to indicate net transport pathways.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Predicting the physical effects of relocating Boston's sewage outfall
Series title Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
DOI 10.1006/ecss.1999.0532
Volume 50
Issue 1
Year Published 2000
Language English
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 14 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
First page 59
Last page 72
Country United States
State Massachusetts
Other Geospatial Boston Harbor
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