Disaster in the sludge beneath Boston Harbor

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A quarter-century ago, Boston had the dirtiest harbor in America. The city had been dumping sewage into it for generations, coating the seafloor with a layer of “black mayonnaise.” Fisheries collapsed and wildlife fled.

In the 1990’s, work began on a state-of-the-art treatment plant and a 10-mile long tunnel to carry waste out of the harbor. With this impressive feat of engineering, Boston was poised to show the country how to rebound from environmental ruin. But when bad decisions and clashing corporations endangered the project, a team of commercial divers was sent on a perilous mission to rescue the stymied cleanup effort. Five divers went in; not all of them came out alive.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents collected over five years of reporting, award-winning writer Neil Swidey takes us deep into the lives of the divers, engineers, politicians, lawyers, and investigators involved in the tragedy and its aftermath, creating a taut, action-packed narrative in "Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into The Darkness."

Suspenseful yet humane, Trapped Under the Sea reminds us that behind every bridge, tower, and tunnel—behind the infrastructure that makes modern life possible—lies unsung bravery and extraordinary sacrifice. This Saturday, Swidey will be in Westport discussing his book and signing copies.

WHERE: Partners Village Store, 865 Main Road, Westport

WHEN: 4-5 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 22

MORE INFO: Call to reserve your seat, 508/636-2572; www.partnersvillagestore.com

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.