BOSTON — Maybe it's a guy thing, but I don't think so. Who isn't fascinated by a really massive engineering project? Even though we don't lift one shovel of dirt, standing in the presence of a mammoth project we cry out "accomplishment."
I trace my interest in building big to a place and time certain. My parents took me to my first movie, "The Ten Commandments," starring Charlton Heston. I couldn't get over the building of the pyramids. (It helped that I was too young to understand what slave labor meant.)
But the show stopper for my young imagination was Moses parting the Red Sea. Though not a construction project, it topped the pyramids. Set your mind to it, I thought, and anything could be built. Also, my father was a mechanical engineer. He built power plants for electric utilities - natural gas, oil, and nuclear. I was 10 years old when I toured one with him. Despite my age, I learned more about the way an engineer thinks from that one trip than anything since. For him, the world was a problem to be solved. Everything had to fit. From fuel delivery, right out to the maximum height of the structure.
Most of us are not engineers. Most of us live in a world where a lot of things seem not to fit. David Holmstrom details what is to date an engineering success story (right), but for decades was a social problem that defied solution. It's a window on how one of the most basic functions causes one of the most complex urban problems - sewage and accompanying water pollution. Already, in some surrounding Boston beaches, kids are swimming in a harbor where for a generation no one would even fish.
Moses may have parted the waters. Engineers are doing their thing by cleaning it.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society