Some are optimistic; Mayor Tom Menino, the state Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), and other concerned parties have even organized to re-seed valuable Harbor wetlands. Still, for those who comb these shores year-round, it's hard to ignore the threat that a Boston of the future might cease to bear the fruit for which it's most renowned.

Clams map


Denehy phoned the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) the day after his morbid discovery on Wood Island. The relationship between the independent public agency and diggers has been rocky in the past; following the terrorist attacks of 2001, two of which originated at Logan, Massport banned farmers from the airport perimeter for 14 months. But this particular encounter proved especially frustrating, as clammers found out that, wholly separate from the spill, Massport had plans to use parts of two valuable wetlands for federally mandated safety upgrades. Construction on a 5400-square-foot deck begins this month; in 2013, another plot of coastline more than 10 times that size will also be developed.

A Massport spokesman claims the impending build-out will only compromise about two acres of harvestable clam terrain. But the Boston Clammers Association, which Denehy represents, says that any major changes in that area greatly affect the ebb and flow of the tide, which is critical to clam growth. Furthermore, clammers say that they were kept in the dark about new airport development — which they first hear about in November, after Denehy inquired on his own. This, they say, is indicative of the low regard that Logan officials have for their trade.

Massport's deputy director of environmental planning met with Denehy's association on December 10. Their discussion didn't reassure diggers, though, who say they were told that the agency had no information about the October accident (this despite the fact that Massport notified the state Department of Environmental Protection about "a sudden release of an unknown quantity of jet fuel" on October 7). In March, Massport finally revealed that the spill was the fault of Logan fuel provider Swissport, releasing reports showing that the company leaked just 10 gallons or less. But under impugnment from the East Boston Times, two weeks ago an airport spokesperson stated that there was "no accurate estimation of how much fuel was spilled on October 7" (the Phoenix was also told this).

More than six months later, clammers remain disheartened, while the opposing parties still disagree about the accident's size and effects. Denehy's association alleges that contamination poisoned at least two formerly clam-rich stretches near the spill site — Wood Island, and the so-called airport flats on the southeast side of Logan. Matthew Brelis, a Massport spokesman, concedes that the area's soft-shells are plagued by neoplasia — a form of cancer that is often caused in clams by exposure to hydrocarbons found in jet fuel — but maintains that the link is purely speculative. Brelis says there have been comparable, though unspecified, die-offs elsewhere on the East Coast (though he did not say where), and says that Harbor clams were relatively unaffected prior to the installation of an advanced fuel-distribution system in the 1990s, when sheen blobs floating off the Logan shoreline were "much larger" than any caused by the Swissport incident.

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