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Barnstable Clean Water Coalition

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2020 Articles

Eastham, Orleans Shellfishing Areas Closed due to Red Tide Toxin

EASTHAM – The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has announced that they have closed the Nauset Marsh System in Eastham and Orleans to shellfishing due to the Paralytic Shellfish Poison toxic, commonly known as “Red Tide.”

The system includes Nauset Harbor, Mill Pond, Town Cove, Nauset Marsh, and Salt Pond.

Digging, harvesting, collecting, and other shellfishing activities will be suspended until further notice. - Eastham, Orleans Shellfishing Areas Closed due to Red Tide Toxin

Cape Cod Times
By Zenas Crocker
Posted Mar 9, 2020 at 2:01 AM

Relocate Cape Cod Hospital, halt risky expansion

Cape Cod Healthcare (CCHC) is in the final stages of planning a hospital campus expansion that brings important community assets closer to Hyannis Harbor and our rising seas. The sensible and vital, longer-term vision should be to relocate the entire hospital campus away from the waterfront to the existing CCHC 40-acre expansion site in Independence Park in Hyannis.

The latest information on sea-level rise comes from the dozens of sentinel stations located along the coastline of the United States. The message is clear and alarming: sea-level rise is accelerating. It really doesn’t matter what is causing the seas to rise for the purposes of this discussion; the question is how do we ensure the protection and functionality of Cape Cod’s most important community asset?

Recent Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps put the current hospital campus barely out of the danger zone. The proposed new building is only a few feet away from the current 12-foot surge area. Have we already forgotten or are we choosing to ignore the lessons of Hurricane Sandy? Storm surges are unpredictable and, with rising sea levels, a margin of just a few feet represents a startling lack of forethought. In a time of acute crisis, the hospital needs to be accessible, open and fully functional.

The commonwealth of Massachusetts has recently launched a comprehensive Municipal Vulnerability Program to help communities with the challenge of sea-level rise. The Cape Cod Commission has received grant funding from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others to examine the challenges of rising seas with an eye toward developing options to cope with the inevitable changes our fragile peninsula will face. It appears to be paradoxical to accept a grant to examine these challenges while reviewing a project of this magnitude in this precarious location at the same time.

Here at the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, we have published a book examining relatively current modeling on sea-level rise with suggested options on how we can cope. In association with the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Landscape Architecture, this study looks at options ranging from armoring to retreat. No doubt, we face many different choices, but in our wildest dreams we never expected to see a proposal for the expansion of the hospital even closer to Cape Cod’s ever-sinking coastline.

Community leadership, the state and our citizens should insist that we move the entire hospital campus inland and adjacent to the Mid-Cape Highway. Yes, this area is a groundwater protection zone, but proper planning can accommodate that. A new highway exit should be designed, so that emergency vehicles have adequate and rapid access to this critical community resource. Now is the time to start planning for these changes. We really don’t have the luxury of delay, since such a major shift would require decades and millions of dollars.

I am currently enrolled in the town of Barnstable’s Citizen Leadership Academy and I recently met with members of the Emergency Medical Team and I asked them their thoughts regarding the current planning for the hospital’s expansion. “It’s an ‘MCI’,” they said.

“What’s that?”, I asked.

“Mass Causality Incident.” When and if the generators go out, the entire hospital will need to be evacuated ... off Cape! If we have any doubts that this could happen here on Cape Cod, all we have to do is look at the experiences of other coastal communities.

Another recent “My View” column noted a host of additional reasons to reconsider this expansion, from traffic to taxes. Why not examine the longer-term opportunity to repurpose the existing hospital campus? Perhaps a residential redevelopment designed to help our housing shortage? The right designs could easily accommodate the rising sea. Such an effort could help revitalize the East End of Hyannis. Planners could reconfigure the Lewis Bay coastline to accommodate and protect this area. Cape Cod Hospital would be where it belongs: elevated, protected and ready to serve all of Cape Cod!

Zenas Crocker is executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, Three Bays Preservation.

Cape Cod Times - Relocate Cape Cod Hospital, halt risky expansion

The Barnstable Patriot
By Marina Davalos
Feb 7, 2020

Striking a balance

This is the second of a two-part series.

Part 1 covered the problem: excess nitrogen and phosphorus from the Cape’s existing septic systems are creating toxic environments in our bodies of water. Period.

Now for the solutions. We talked with Linda Cronin, professional engineer and owner of CSN Engineering in Brewster; Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC); and Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition (BCWC).

Let’s start by presenting how existing septic systems work and why they’re failing us. Cronin, who has designed and installed hundreds of septic systems, explained that in a typical septic tank, wastewater flows from the household and into a tank, which holds the wastewater long enough so that solids (aka sludge) settle to the bottom (to be later pumped out), and oils and grease (aka scum) float to the surface. The separated wastewater is then piped out of the tank and discharged into a drain field or leach field that releases the wastewater into the soil for natural absorption.

“The soil will treat the pathogens in the wastewater and make them inactive,” said Cronin, “but it doesn’t take out the nitrogen.”

Studies have indicated that in good healthy soil, four feet is what is needed to remove harmful bacteria and pathogens. But some areas of the Cape have such coarse, sandy soil that the wastewater percolates right through and doesn’t get the necessary treatment that soil can provide, Cronin said.

But there are also alternative septic systems in place. Instead of a standard Title 5 septic system, an added treatment tank, or a treatment module inside a custom-made septic tank, works to “de-nitrify” wastewater to acceptable levels. Unfortunately, they’re expensive.

“It could add a considerable cost over and above the typical Title 5 system, not to mention an operations and maintenance plan, and it uses more electricity,” Cronin said.

Town sewering has been touted as a necessary part of the solution to the septic problem.

Sewer pipes under the street would collect and pump wastewater away from the groundwater in sensitive areas and discharge treated effluent into less sensitive areas. It is through this treatment and discharge system that nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater are removed from groundwater.

The collected wastewater would end up in a wastewater treatment center, much like the one in Hyannis. Wastewater gets treated to remove contaminants, bacteria and nutrients and then is discharged back to the ground in a location determined to be able to handle the treated effluent. Typically, these discharge areas are outside sensitive watershed and recharge areas for drinking water supplies.

“The notion that there’s an alternative that doesn’t include some amount of sewering is wrong,” he said. “If you sewer, the nitrogen and phosphorous never go into the ground in the watershed of the sensitive resources we are trying to protect – it’s the only solution that can solve the problem in its entirety.”

While alternative septic systems can reduce nitrogen, they don’t necessarily do the same for the phosphorous, which limits their effectiveness for water quality problems in lakes and ponds.

But even though a sewer system would eliminate the nitrogen and phosphorus problem, not everyone agrees it is the best solution. With a traditional septic system, homeowners and businesses must comply with laws regulating the number of bedrooms or employees, or restaurant seats, etc. in a home or building.

“With sewering, those measures are no longer in place, and we’d have no population control,” Cronin said. “Not to mention, sewering is a huge expense, and we would need large land areas for the treatment facilities.” Utilizing off-Cape treatment facilities would remove large volumes of water that would no longer be available for recharge, which would create other environmental issues, Cronin said.

“Alternative septic systems are not new, in fact there are several thousand in operation on the Cape and Islands,” said BCWC’s Crocker. But he said these systems have flaws: They’re costly to maintain, and their performance hasn’t proven to be much better than existing Title 5 systems.

However, there’s a new opportunity emerging. The BCWC is working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Nature Conservancy and the Town of Barnstable to identify a next-generation alternative septic system.

One such system, named NitROE, is configured similarly to a traditional septic system, with a tank and a leach field. But in between, the wastewater travels into an aeration chamber and then through a chamber of wood chips which process the wastewater to a level close to that of many municipal treatment systems.

Crocker said 10 of these systems are currently being tested on Martha’s Vineyard with very positive early results. To him, sewering makes sense in higher density areas, but in communities farthest away from wastewater treatment plants, individual systems may make more sense.

“Sewering infrastructure costs are very high, and there are limited wastewater disposal choices, such as the controversial outfall pipes into Nantucket Sound.

“We have to look at the capacity of the existing systems and look at the cost,” Crocker said. “In denser neighborhoods, sewering may be more practical, but elsewhere, individual systems may offer a better option at lower cost.”

Marina Davalos is a freelance writer who lives in Cotuit. Follow her on Twitter @Marina_Davalos1.

The Barnstable Patriot - Striking a Balance

The Barnstable Patriot
By Marina Davalos
Jan 31, 2020

Troubled waters: Scientists test for links between lower herring counts & cyanobacteria

This is the first in a two-part series.

Low herring counts and increasing cyanobacteria blooms mean that more needs to be done to curb human activity when it comes to the Cape’s most precious resource – water.

Last month, Jo Ann Muramoto, director of science programs for the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) sent out a press release with the heading, “Results of 2019 volunteer counts of river herring on Cape Cod are a troubling mixed bag.”

River herring, which include alewife and blueback herring, are listed as a Species of Special Concern by NOAA and considered critically important in the coastal food web. Since 2005, there has been an ongoing moratorium on river herring catch, sale and possession, the press release states. While nine herring runs on the Cape actually increased in size from 2018, eight run sizes decreased.

“The year-to-year change is not always useful unless there’s a really dramatic change,” Muramoto said.

For example, the Marstons Mills River run size increased from 10,306 herring in 2018 to 35,092 in 2019. However, overall counts for the Marstons Mills River have been on a steady decline since 2012, when the count was 87,308. Volunteer training begins every year in February and March for herring run counts beginning in April and running through June, when herring are migrating upstream to spawn. Volunteers count for 10 minutes at a time, using a clicker counter.

While the main cause of the low herring run counts has been overfishing, pollution also factors in, and experts are beginning to weigh in on the ongoing threat of cyanobacteria.

Brad Chase, diadromous fisheries project leader with the State Division of Marine Fisheries, said that since cyanobacteria is a fairly recent phenomenon, there’s no actual cause and effect relationship between cyanobacteria and low herring counts – yet.

“Cyanobacteria is a concern for Cape Cod ponds, both in terms of potential reductions in the quality of river herring spawning and nursery habitat, and the broader concern for all aquatic life,” said Chase.

Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of APCC, agreed that this is a new area of interest and scientific inquiry. “We’ve identified it as a ‘maybe’ situation,” said Gottlieb, adding that the organization has obtained funding to pursue this avenue of exploration.

What is cyanobacteria, and what does it do?

In a healthy pond, Gottlieb said, the vegetation rooted at the bottom provides the oxygen that feeds the pond life. A process known as eutrification occurs when excessive plant and algae growth begins to limit factors needed for photosynthesis.

In layman’s terms? “The excess algae growth makes it hard for sunlight to get to the bottom aquatic plants,” said Gottlieb. “The algae clouds the water, and the result is less oxygen, creating a die-off effect. The algae becomes toxic because there’s simply too much of it, and other organisms can’t compete with it,” he said. Over large periods of time, this is a naturally occurring process, but experts say we’re speeding up that process – way too fast.

“Across the region, 40% of ponds had water quality that didn’t meet basic parameters of a healthy pond,” said Gottlieb. The three main causes of pollution in our ponds are outdated septic systems, over-fertilization and storm water runoff; but by far, the main instigator is the nitrogen and phosphorus that emanate from septic systems, seeping into our ground water and ponds, feeding the toxic algae blooms.

Think the algae dies and disappears in the winter? Think again.

“In cold weather the algae settles to the bottom of the pond and creates a dormant, over-fertilized organic layer – it smothers the plant life like a blanket, killing whatever’s on the bottom,” said Gottlieb. “When it gets warmer in the summer, it floats back up to the top, thus an entire negative feedback loop is created,” he said.

Two Barnstable High School seniors – Barnstable resident Graham Hempstead and Sofia Hailu of Centerville – are interns at the Osterville-based Barnstable Clean Water Coalition (BCWC). They have been monitoring three Centerville ponds: Bearse Pond, Long Pond and Lake Wequaquet, since last September.

“We test the nitrogen and phosphate levels and the dissolved oxygen in the water,” said Sofia Hailu, who plans to pursue environmental studies in college and eventually go into environmental law. All three of these ponds were closed to swimmers in 2019 due to toxic cyanobacteria blooms. “We’re working on it to see if it’s going to come back,” she said.

The interns spend one hour per day, three days a week on the ponds. “We take two water samples to measure if the nitrogen and phosphorus levels are going up or down – one sample from a meter deep and the other closer to the surface,” said Graham Hempstead, who also plans to pursue environmental studies in college.

According to Hempstead, nitrogen levels in the summer months are particularly alarming. “The amount of nitrogen that we’re putting in the waters in the summer is more than double what it should be,” he said.

Is there hope? Experts say yes. Stay tuned for Troubled Waters, Part 2: Solutions.

Marina Davalos is a freelance writer who lives in Cotuit. Follow her on Twitter @Marina_Davalos1.

The Barnstable Patriot - Troubled waters: Scientists test for links between lower herring counts & cyanobacteria

Cape Cod Times
By Doug Fraser
Posted Jan 24, 2020 at 9:14 PM

Cape seen as protected from weakening of Clean Water Act

The Trump administration and the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a new Clean Water Act rule this week that removed many Obama administration protections of streams, wetlands and other water bodies that don’t connect to a river, lake or ocean by surface water flow.

The new rule could roll back protections for as much as 60% of the nation’s waterways and wetlands and increase nutrient and fertilizer flow and the infiltration of chemicals and pesticides into rivers, lakes, bays and water supplies, according to clean water advocates and scientists.

Environmentalists and others say the new regulations are not supported by science, will likely result in litigation and could severely reduce the effectiveness of the landmark Clean Water Act.

While Massachusetts and other states in the Northeast that have strong regulations to protect water and wetlands will be largely unaffected, scientists and environmental advocates worry about the degree of harm to large areas of the country with no such protections.

“The federal government remains committed to working with all states, localities, and tribes to enhance their capacity to regulate, protect and restore their waters,” the EPA said in an emailed statement in response to a request for comment.

“I think it is very well-established science that water flows through watersheds in ways that aren’t always on the surface,” said Christopher Neill, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center who sits on the board of directors of the Buzzards Bay Coalition and the Coonamessett River Trust.

Neill said that’s exactly what happens on the Cape, where over half the water collecting in the region’s rivers and entering our estuaries from land comes through groundwater seeping in along the shoreline. Features like small kettle hole ponds, cedar swamps and vernal pools would be unprotected under the new federal rule, although they retain protected status under state regulations.

In 2015, President Barack Obama was faced with U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that cut out water bodies not fed by surface water and maintained restricted safeguards only to navigable waterways, rivers, lakes, streams and any adjacent wetland. But definitive scientific research found that water bodies connected by groundwater to larger water bodies were critical to the Clean Water Act, the guiding principal of which is to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of our Nation’s waters.”

Neill said the vast majority of a water system — a network of large channels connected to progressively smaller ones — is in the smallest channels, which would no longer be protected under the new rule.

“Those are in close contact with the land and so those are collecting the runoff from the land and diverting it into these larger water bodies,” he said.

H. Curtis Spalding, the former EPA Region 1 (Northeast) regional administrator, said the 2015 Clean Water Act rule took an important step to bring science and the law back in line by including wetlands, small streams and other water bodies not connected or adjacent to surface waters as protected features.

It was something that ranchers, farmers, mining, oil and gas production companies, the pesticide and fertilizer industry, golf course owners and others opposed as expensive and bureaucratic. Many in those industries praised the Trump administration’s decision this week.

But the administration’s own scientific advisers said the new rule was not supported by science. In an advisory from October, the EPA Science Advisory Board found the rollback of protections in the new rule “departs from established science” and does not support the objectives of the Clean Water Act. They said the 2015 rule “found a sound scientific basis for the inclusion of these wetlands.”

“I don’t think anyone ever saw this kind of pullback,” Spalding said.

Removing safeguards from such a large class of water bodies that have scientifically been shown to be linked to major waterways and water sources went way beyond reversing an Obama-era rule. It could, once again, allow areas that are only occasionally wet but are linked to major water bodies through groundwater to have fewer restrictions on industrial land use. It would also be easier to fill in wetlands.

“Putting chemicals into ephemeral areas or wetlands, or along agriculture ditches or other areas that connect with groundwater does endanger the waters of the U.S., the larger water bodies where we get our drinking water,” Neill said.

It also sets back efforts at curtailing nitrogen pollution from wastewater, farm fertilizers and animal waste that have helped create a huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and water quality degradation in the Chesapeake Bay.

Reducing standards so that treatment will not be required and leaving the wetlands that can buffer larger water bodies by absorbing contaminants unprotected is a “double whammy,” said Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod.

“This is going to add significantly to the burden of these systems,” Gottlieb said. “It will cut significantly into efforts to reduce the dead zone.”

“It’s a loss for all of us,” Spaulding said. “We are all connected by water quality across the country. We need protection of the wetland system everywhere.”

Massachusetts, along with many states in the Northeast, has water and wetland regulations that are as strong as, if not stronger than, the federal laws.

“For the Northeast, the Obama rule (in 2015) was not a major issue, in large part because the states, the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA had been working for years on integrating state and federal wetland rules,” Spalding said. “Protection for the Northeast for wetlands was about as comprehensive as it can be.”

“It appears that the proposed rule change to the Clean Water Rule will have little impact on Cape Cod,” said Kristy Senatori, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission.

Senatori also pointed out that the regional commission’s wetland definition of protected water bodies is even broader than the state’s wetlands protection act “so projects we review are held to an even higher standard regarding wetlands protection.”

But state officials have expressed concerns to the EPA that the new federal rule may ultimately result in poorer water quality in areas where state and federal agencies both have jurisdiction.

In comments on the first proposal of a new rule in 2017, the state Department of Environmental Protection particularly noted that it would affect the issuance of state and federal Army Corps permits for disposal of dredged materials in U.S. waters, making the permit process confusing and more bureaucratic for applicants. They also worried that state jurisdiction could be curtailed in some areas, “thus impeding the Commonwealth’s oversight and protection of its environmental resources.”

Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.

Cape Cod Times - Cape seen as protected from weakening of Clean Water Act

CapeCod Today
By Sonja Sheasley
Jan 16, 2020

County Connections - Featured Program: Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center

Supporting local health departments with testing and research...

Editor's note - “County Connections" is a monthly column illustrating how Barnstable County supports our region through its numerous and multifaceted programs and initiatives.

MASSTC, a division of the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, began about 20 years ago supporting Health Departments across the Cape in meeting standards for wastewater treatment, but quickly developed into much more than that. Located on Joint Base Cape Cod, their team of specialists are passionately working to protect our water resources by testing and researching products that remove the myriad of contaminants found in domestic wastewater. 

Some History

Beginning in the early 1990s, we began to see eutrophication and algae blooms on Cape Cod.  Although nitrogen is important for all living things, the culprit was (and is) too much of it from fertilizers and human waste that nature can’t break down fast enough.  Phosphorous-laden detergents and personal care products are also flushed or poured down the drain, which often happens without anyone thinking a second thought.

Layer Cakes

Knowing that 97% of the Cape’s homes depend on on-site septic systems to treat wastewater, the team at MASSTC understood that the answer was in improved septic system technology. Based on work previously done in Canada and Florida, MASSTC has researched and improved a passive leach field modification to attain enhanced nitrogen removal. They affectionately refer to them as “layer cakes”.  These layer cakes reduce nitrogen content in wastewater by more than 90 percent, and some phosphorous. They are designed to work with private septic systems by creating an underground leaching field, layering soil, sand, and woodchips. The excess of nitrogen and phosphorus is not entirely removed in our abbreviated water cycle here on Cape Cod, home of the sole source aquifer, resulting in a severe impact on our ecosystems.

Brian Baumgaertel, Director of MASSTC says, “It’s exciting to be on the cutting edge of industry at MASSTC. We are working locally, but these are really global solutions and they have a huge impact.”

Through a $700,000 grant from the state Environmental Protection Agency’s Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Project (SNEP), this grant has allowed MASSTC to take the research done at the facility and install these in real-world backyards.  If successful over time, this technology could be adopted by the state, making these systems available to the public someday, and having an enormously positive impact to the environment on Cape Cod, and other places that share our wastewater challenges.  That also explains why MASSTC has enjoyed an international audience over the years.

The Grass is greener...over a layer cake

MASSTC recently launched their #WasteNoWater Campaign. The goal of this campaign is to show that domestic wastewater doesn’t need to be flushed away, it can be used to grow food and plants, and without the use of fertilizers. This initiative is not grant funded and illustrates the passion and inventiveness at MASSTC. The process goes like this: wastewater is treated by filtering it through a layer cake and simulated stream beds.  This process filters out most contaminants and leaves the water rich in nutrients that plants need to grow. The water is piped over to an adjacent greenhouse where it is used to grow vegetables and flowers hydroponically and without fertilizers. Plans are underway to collaborate with the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension where “Waste No Water” gardens will be demonstrated to the public.

Other Projects

MASSTC has plenty of other projects on its plate, like the Nitrogen Sensor Challenge.  In collaboration with the EPA, MASSTC is hosting participating teams from various communities and organizations who are trying to find creative and cost-effective nitrogen sensors that will give real-time nitrogen data to homeowners, system operators, and regulators in order to determine how well the system is performing at removing nitrogen in homes.  Entrants bring equipment and set up at the MASSTC where they perform their testing.  The winner of this Challenge will receive a prize in the form of a guaranteed order of a number of sensors from the EPA.

Nitrogen isn’t the only contaminant to worry about when it comes to wastewater. Many of Cape Cod’s freshwater ponds have seen increasing summer algae blooms which are directly related to the phosphorus in wastewater. MASSTC has received a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to install a small number of phosphorus removal systems in homes to assess their efficacy in addressing the algae bloom issue. Other upcoming projects will look at contaminants such as human pathogens, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and other contaminants of emerging concern.

Water and wastewater management are vital to our region’s health, both for our residents and environment. Help us grow awareness of the important work MASSTC is doing to protect our fragile water resources on Cape Cod. For more information, visit MASSTC.

Cape Cod Today - County Connections - Featured Program: Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center

2019 Articles

The Falmouth Enterprise
Dec 24, 2019

Falmouth Water Quality Group Examines Alternative Septic Systems

The Falmouth Water Quality Management Committee earlier this month brought in three guest speakers to give an update on the state of innovative/alternative, or I/A, nitrogen-reducing septic systems.

Chairman Eric T. Turkington said sewering the entire town to reduce wastewater nitrogen loading to the estuaries is not an option and that Falmouth is considering I/A septic systems as an alternative.

The meeting’s objective was to raise awareness on the types and status of systems that are the best candidates for Falmouth, he said.

In her presentation on the West Falmouth Harbor Shoreline Septic Remediation project, Maureen Thomas, a water resources specialist for Buzzards Bay Coalition, said the project will upgrade 30 existing septic systems within 300 feet of mean high water using the best available technologies to achieve effluent concentrations of at least 12 milligrams of nitrogen per liter.

Twenty-seven systems have been installed. The types include blackwater, Hoot, Eliminite, Layer Cake, Fast with Perc-Rite Drip Dispersal, Perc-Rite and NitROE systems.

Falmouth Water Quality Committee

Maureen Thomas from the Buzzards Bay Coalition speaks about the West Falmouth nitrogen-reducing septic system demonstration project. STEVEN WITHROW/ENTERPRISE

The average cost to add an I/A system to an existing Title 5 system was approximately $24,000. Full upgrades from cesspools average $34,000, Ms. Thomas said.

These costs did not include landscaping, which is highly variable. Annual operating and maintenance costs ranged from $250 to $1,000, depending on the type of system. Monitoring, pumping and electrical costs were not included.

In presenting the most-recent monitoring data for each of the systems by type and individual installations, Ms. Thomas indicated that the median total nitrogen reduction from all 27 systems is 74 percent.

The Layer Cake and NitROE systems remove the most nitrogen, she said, adding some mechanical issues she encountered early in the project have now been worked out.

Several committee members cautioned against being too optimistic in the expectations of seeing signs of recovery too soon.

In his presentation on the Layer Cake system, George Heufelder of the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center said most systems are biological and are therefore driven by temperature: The colder the temperature, the lower the performance.

The test center’s goal is to optimize systems for the region’s climate, Mr. Heufelder said, indicating the Simple Layer Cake, the Lined Layer Cake and the Box system are the most-promising and simplest systems available.

He described how they differ from a standard Title 5 system, which for the Layer Cake system is the simple addition of sawdust to the sand layer in a Title 5 system.

The cost for electricity for all three systems is about $50 per year, Mr. Heufelder said, adding the average cost to install a Simple Layer Cake is $19,000, with $21,000 for the Lined Layer Cake and $22,000 for the Box system.

The Simple Layer Cake systems have a 66 to 89 percent annual total nitrogen removal, he said.

In his presentation John R. Smith of KleanTU LLC spoke about the design of the NitROE and SanTOE systems. He said both systems are an add-on to a standard Title 5 system and the only mechanical component is a small air pump.

To date, 12 NitROE and two SanTOE systems have been installed in the region, Mr. Smith said, notingthe only stumbling block faced was a quality issue with the aeration tubing, which has been corrected. He reported that the average total nitrogen effluent from all of the systems is 5.5 milligrams of nitrogen per liter.

The cost for the NitROE system is $21,000 to retrofit an existing Title 5, while a new Title 5 installation with a NitROE is about $38,000, Mr. Smith said, estimating the life expectancy of the system to be at least 20 years.

After the presentations committee member John B. Waterbury said four systems are most promising for Falmouth’s needs, referring to the two Layer Cake systems, NitROE and Nitrex.

Mr. Turkington said no decision has yet been made on the large-scale use of I/As, and the town and state must determine whether large-scale use of I/As at Oyster Pond is a feasible effort as a model.

Falmouth Enterprise - Falmouth Water Quality Group Examines Alternative Septic Systems

New York Times

Dec 21, 2019

95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump

President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from Republicans in Congress, has often targeted environmental rules it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses.

A New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law SchoolColumbia Law School and other sources, counts more than 90 environmental rules and regulations rolled back under Mr. Trump.

Our list represents two types of policy changes: rules that were officially reversed and rollbacks still in progress....

To read the full article, click the link below.

New York Times - 95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump

Wicked Local Brewster
Posted Dec 5, 2019 at 6:57 PM

APCC: Herring counts show mixed results

An analysis by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod of the 2019 volunteer spring herring counts show the results to be a mixed bag containing both good and bad news.

They indicate that river herring populations on Cape Cod have not recovered and still need protection as well as restoration of their habitat.

The change in herring run sizes from 2018 to 2019 provided some good news. Nine runs had run sizes that increased from 2018 to 2019. They include Stillwater Pond in Chatham, Scargo Lake in Dennis, Coonamessett River in Falmouth, Herring River in Harwich, Quashnet River and Santuit River in Mashpee, Herring River in Wellfleet, Long Pond/Parkers River in Yarmouth and the Marstons Mills River in Barnstable.

The bad news is that eight runs had run sizes that decreased from 2018 to 2019. They include Stony Brook in Brewster, Bound Brook in Dennis, Bridge Pond and Herring Pond in Eastham, Mashpee River in Mashpee, Pilgrim Lake in Orleans, Mill Creek in Sandwich and Tom Mathews Pond in Yarmouth.

Six of these runs are on Cape Cod Bay and two are on Nantucket Sound and Pleasant Bay, suggesting that Cape Cod Bay runs did not fare as well as Nantucket Sound runs.

The longer-term trends in run sizes over several years may be a better indicator of whether a run has increased over time, stayed the same, or decreased over time.

The good news is that some runs have been trending upward in recent years, such as Pilgrim Lake and Stillwater Pond in Chatham.

However, 15 runs saw their highest run sizes in past years. For example, 2012 was the best year for the Marstons Mills River and Santuit River.

For Stony Brook, Herring River in Wellfleet, Tom Mathews Pond, Herring River in Harwich and the Quashnet River, the best year was 2014. For Long Pond/Parkers River and the Coonamessett River, the best year was 2016.

For the Mashpee River, Bound Brook, Bridge Pond, Herring Pond in Eastham, Pilgrim Lake and Mill Creek, the best year was 2018.

On a statewide basis, many herring runs saw their highest numbers in 2014, according to the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. These results suggest that herring numbers remain low compared to earlier years.

Several Cape Cod runs that used to number in the ten thousand to several tens of thousands range have decreased to very low numbers in recent years and may be in trouble, according to the analysis. These runs now have run sizes of less than 1,000 to 5,000. They include Mill Creek, Tom Mathews Pond, Long Pond/Parkers River and Cedar Lake in Falmouth.

APCC’s assessment of Cape Cod herring run sizes follows a recent announcement of new regulations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to promote the recovery of herring populations, including a prohibition on mid-water trawlers from fishing for herring within 20 miles off the east coast of Cape Cod.

River herring, which include alewife and blueback herring, are listed as Species of Special Concern by NOAA and are considered to be critically important in the coastal food web. Since 2005 there has been an ongoing moratorium on river herring catch, sale and possession.

In 2019 volunteer herring counters on Cape Cod counted river herring along 18 herring runs. The counts were conducted by 14 groups and organizations and coordinated by APCC.

Since 2007, APCC has coordinated a Cape-wide volunteer herring count program using a visual count method designed by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries for volunteer groups. The visual count method provides an estimate of the number of herring migrating during the day.

Volunteer counts provide valuable scientific data on herring populations and are used by fisheries managers to manage and protect herring stocks. Herring counts also help to document the need for restoration of fish runs and the success of restoration projects.

APCC’s partners in promoting volunteer herring counts include the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Partnership, NOAA Restoration Center, town herring wardens and organizations and volunteers across the Cape.

For more information, contact Jo Ann Muramoto, APCC’s director of science programs and MassBays regional coordinator for Cape Cod, at 508-619-3185 or To learn more about APCC’s herring count program and to see herring count results, visit

Wicked Local Brewster - APCC: Herring counts show mixed results

Cape Cod Times

Cape Cod must move faster to clean its ground water and coastal embayments

For generations, Cape Cod’s bays, beaches and ponds have been an essential summer destination for thousands of residents and tourists alike. Days spent boating, kayaking, bird watching, and swimming fill many of our memories. Unfortunately, the precious waters that we depend on for these activities are in trouble.

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod recently released a “State of the Water” report, and the results are sobering. Impaired water quality is threatening two-thirds of the Cape’s bays, and one-third of the area’s ponds.

The culprit? Nutrient pollution, largely from the Cape’s proliferating septic systems.

Significant areas of Cape Cod are not served by a city or town sewer system. Rather, properties in these areas use septic waste systems, which release partially treated wastewater into the ground. In most circumstances, pollutants are removed as the wastewater slowly migrates through soil. But septic systems that might work elsewhere in the commonwealth do not work as planned on the Cape. In this area’s sandy soils, septic wastewater moves too rapidly to remove pollutants before it reaches the water table. Wastewater pours through the sand and quickly reaches groundwater, which then carries pollutants like nitrogen into coastal waters and ponds, often just a few hundred feet away.

The resulting algae outbreaks that residents and visitors see on the surface are merely visible signs of a much larger problem caused by this nitrogen pollution. Outbreaks of algae can destroy habitats and lead to fish kills. On top of that, swimming and boating are much less appealing pastimes when the waters have been polluted with human waste.

The region’s economy depends on healthy waters for swimming, boating, fishing and all of the other commercial and recreational activities that bring thousands of tourists and locals to Cape Cod every summer. However, if we allow pollution of our bays and ponds to go on, the ability of these activities to continue will be in question.

Nutrient pollution in the Cape’s waters has been a problem for years. But recently, development has exploded, and septic systems have proliferated, which has only worsened the health of our waters.

There are steps we can take to clean up this mess, but they will require serious commitments from our governments and neighbors.

Cities and towns are working on expanding and upgrading sewage treatment systems, but this work needs to happen much faster if we are to preserve the Cape’s coastal ecosystems.

Large resorts also need to upgrade their water-treatment facilities to curb their pollution. Some are doing just that, but others are dragging their feet in making the necessary changes, which is why the Conservation Law Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the Wychmere Resort and Beach Club in Harwich Port for continuing to add its wastewater pollution to coastal waters.

These fixes won’t be easy, but they are necessary.

Preserving the Cape’s beautiful waters is a responsibility that rests on all of us, and we will only be successful if every town and resort does their share. Every resident and visitor deserves the opportunity to enjoy the area’s bays, beaches and ponds for years to come. To preserve that opportunity, individual polluters as well as town officials must commit to stopping this dangerous pollution. We must protect our waters (and economy) for future generations.

Chris Kilian is vice president of strategic litigation at the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston.

Cape Cod Times - Cape Cod must move faster to clean its ground water and coastal embayments

Cape Cod Times

NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) may have graduated to BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody) in Centerville.

According to the Cape Cod Times, the town of Barnstable is trying to build a pumping station on a third of an acre on Main Street, Centerville, to service a new sewer system for a neighborhood that has become too crowded for individual septic systems.

Most of the equipment will be underground and the rest may be put into a small, cottage-style building. Similar pumps have been installed elsewhere in town.

Some Main Street neighbors are organizing opposition. They cannot make the typical NIMBY claim that traffic will be unacceptably increased, so they are relying on the tried and true property-value argument. One says that “several real estate agents told him the stigma of the sewer infrastructure would always be there.” Another said that the station would be ”... a disaster for Centerville Village.”

I’d rather tell a prospective buyer that my house was served by a sewer system than report that all the house’s waste was being stored under the lawn where their kids will play; but maybe that’s just me.

Let’s concede that the neighbors could be correct, and their property value is at risk. There may be a way to protect them from any ill effects.

Suppose we give the abutters and the abutters to the abutters a guarantee. If they want to leave the neighborhood, the town will buy their house at the current assessed value if they cannot get an offer for more. Since assessments are supposed to be 100% of fair market value, that should be reasonable.

If the neighbors don’t want to sell now, each year the town will raise the assessment (and the price) by the increase in the sales price of the median house sold in town that year. (Taxes will go up accordingly.) When they do sell, the offer to buy at the current assessed price will still be available.

There can be no progress when BANANA is the rule. But if we can provide some security for those most affected by new development, it seems to me that it makes sense to do so.

Jack Edmonston lives in East Sandwich.

Cape Cod Times - Sewer system could add value to a neighborhood

The Boston Globe
Story by Nestor Ramos
SEPTEMBER 26, 2019

These bridges span much more than a canal.

To traverse the Sagamore, from the north, or the Bourne, from the west, is to cross the boundary between work and play. As the last girder shrinks in the rearview mirror, the road opens onto the pine-fringed mid-Cape expressway. Already those knotted neck muscles are beginning to soften and uncoil.

The beaches we love — Marconi, Cahoon Hollow, Nauset, to name three — are still miles away. But the worst of the dreaded Cape traffic is behind us now. We are in a postcard land that evokes a particular memory, a four-word poem, for anyone who has had the good fortune to experience it: Summer on the Cape....

[Read the full article at the Boston Globe].

Click here to read the full article.

Click here to view the short video.

Cape Cod Times

Federal grant to fund PFAS testing in Hyannis

HYANNIS — The Silent Spring Institute has received a $1 million federal grant to test the impact of PFAS contamination in drinking water on adults and children in Hyannis and Ayer.

About 1,000 adults and 300 children are expected to participate in the study, with two-thirds of the participants coming from Hyannis, said Laurel Schaider, an environmental chemist at the institute in Newton.

Hyannis, which has a larger population than Ayer, has experienced a higher level of PFAS in the drinking water from the use of firefighting foams at nearby fire training areas, Schaider said.

“Hyannis will be a larger component of the study,” Schaider said Wednesday after Silent Spring sent out a press release announcing it had received the grant.

The $1 million award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will allow researchers to collect blood and urine samples from study participants to test for thyroid, hormone, cholesterol, antibody and other levels, Schaider said.

Silent Spring’s research project is one of seven being funded through the registry’s new health study on PFAS in communities across the country. The study involves 6,000 adults and 2,000 children, Schaider said.

The grant covers the first year of a five-year project, Schaider said. She said Silent Spring anticipates receiving similar levels of funding for the next four years.

Since 2015, contamination by PFAS, a class of man-made materials thought to be associated with adverse health effects, has twice triggered public health advisories in Hyannis.

The advisories warned infants, pregnant women and nursing mothers against consuming water from the Hyannis water supply.

The Hyannis water system has taken a lot of steps to bring PFAS levels in line with state and federal standards, Schaider said.

Silent Spring researchers will work with Barnstable municipal authorities to determine the history of PFAS contamination in drinking water.

“We will provide whatever they need,” Barnstable Department of Public Works Director Daniel Santos said.

Santos noted that the town did not own the water supply system until 2005, when it took it over from the private Barnstable Water Company.

The town wrote a letter of support when Silent Spring applied for the federal grant, Santos said.

“It’s important we get as much science as we can on contaminants in drinking water and the implications of that,” Santos said.

Mashpee, West Tisbury and Joint Base Cape Cod also have dealt with PFAS chemicals commonly found in firefighting foams, stain- and water-resistant products, coatings, outdoor clothing, carpets and more.

Earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Baker filed a supplemental spending bill that would include millions of dollars to help cities and towns test and treat PFAS contaminants in their drinking water.

Also this month, the office of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had awarded $636,365 to Cape Cod fire departments for a burn-building training structure at the county’s new fire training academy, which is planned for Joint Base Cape Cod.

Activities at the existing Barnstable County Fire and Rescue Training Academy in Hyannis have all but ceased due to PFAS soil and groundwater contamination on the property.

Last month, the Hyannis Water System began work on a $12 million water filtration building at the Maher Water Treatment Plant off Old Yarmouth Road. The facility will enable the system to meet anticipated new federal and state regulations that will be stricter for contaminants of emerging concern, including PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane.

Schaider is leading the Silent Spring project in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Eastern Research Group.

Philippe Grandjean, a Harvard Chan School epidemiologist who is a co-principal investigator on the project, said in a press release it is important to understand the health impact of PFAS on vulnerable populations.

“There are critical periods in life when the body is sensitive to chemical exposures,” Grandjean said.

Schaider said this latest project is separate from a smaller study of the immunological risk of child exposure to PFAS, for which the institute will be recruiting subjects this fall.

Follow Cynthia McCormick on Twitter: @Cmccormickcct.

Cape Cod Times - Federal grant to fund PFAS testing in Hyannis

Barnstable Patriot
Posted Aug 26, 2019 at 11:43 AM


Individually we are one drop but together, we are an ocean. ~Ryunosuke Satoro

As he does every month, photographer William F. Pomeroy turNS his lens to the working men and women of Barnstable.

Follow the Patriot on Twitter -- @BarnPat -- and post a photo of yourself working with the #BarnstableAtWork hashtag. We’ll retweet as many as we can.

Barnstable Patriot - BARNSTABLE AT WORK

Cape Cod Times
By Tanner Stening
Posted Aug 14, 2019 at 9:11 PM
Updated Aug 15, 2019 at 6:27 AM

Mashpee weighs wastewater management options

Town could pay millions for its own plan or join regional effort at base.

MASHPEE — The Board of Selectmen is considering handing responsibility of the multimillion-dollar wastewater infrastructure project over to the Mashpee Water District and a yet-to-be-created sewer district.

The selectmen held a special meeting Monday to talk about the town’s existing plan to manage its nitrogen load, which includes spending potentially tens of millions of dollars to upgrade the town’s wastewater infrastructure.

But the form of that spending — how much and on what — has created obstacles to action at a time when officials agree that something has to be done about the nitrogen-burdened Popponesset and Waquoit bays. Several proposed town meeting articles to approve funding to design a sewer collection system and wastewater treatment plant were postponed in the spring, and could potentially be put off again this fall.

To combat ongoing water quality problems, Mashpee officials have put together a watershed nitrogen management plan that looks to supplement sewers and other alternative wastewater treatment by using shellfish.

After several hours of discussion in a room packed with residents, the selectmen formally requested that the Mashpee Water Commission consider transferring responsibility of the wastewater infrastructure project — in whatever final form it takes — to its water district. Selectmen also entertained the possibility of creating a sewer district that would jointly operate and manage the project.

The town could go in several directions. It could pursue its local solutions, including building the treatment plant and sewer system, or it could fund and build pipelines connecting their infrastructure to Joint Base Cape Cod’s treatment plant.

The latter plan depends on collaboration already ongoing between Bourne, Falmouth and Sandwich, which are also considering building into the base plant.

It also depends on whether the Air National Guard will hand over management and operation of the plant to Barnstable, which recently submitted a letter of interest in doing so.

Barnstable Public Works Director Daniel Santos said the town has until Sept. 30 to develop a proposal detailing the operation change.

“Our interest is in being able to accommodate our wastewater needs on the western part of Barnstable into the future,” he said. “We need effluent disposal options.”

The Upper Cape has been participating in a state-funded regional study that proposes tackling wastewater management to the tune of $155 million through local capital projects on a regional solution involving the base. The towns were awarded two Community Compact Cabinet Efficiency and Regionalization grants as part of a state program, according to Edward Leonard, senior project manager at Wright-Pierce, the engineering firm spearheading the study.

Leonard said the four towns have met more than a dozen times to discuss the regionalization effort, though historically there have been smaller town-to-town partnerships on the issue of wastewater management, specifically on reducing septic system runoff and nitrogen levels in shared watersheds.

Mashpee, Sandwich and Barnstable, for example, have a shared watershed agreement that the towns signed on to about a year ago with the aim of improving water quality in Popponesset Bay.

Regardless of what the town does, officials agree that something needs to be done. The water quality in all of the bays fail to meet state water quality standards, causing wholescale habitat decline, according to Brian Howes, professor of marine science and technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, who appeared before the selectmen recently.

“Moving forward is not so much the question as the form in which the forward movement is taken,” Town Manager Rodney Collins said.

A joint water-and-sewer district project might be a complicated approach, requiring that legislation be signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker to change the terms of the district’s authority, according to Andrew Marks, operations manager at the Mashpee Water District.

“Our enabling act does not allow us to do anything other than water,” he said. “We can borrow money for water, install and build pumps and tanks. Our singular duty is water-related, and does not include wastewater.”

Collins said he plans to meet with the water commissioners to discuss the possibility of the town imparting, or sharing, responsibility with the district.

And the selectmen don’t anticipate relinquishing all project oversight should the district get involved.

“I think we ought to have some checks and balances through the selectmen,” Selectman Thomas O’Hara said Tuesday.

— Follow Tanner Stening on Twitter: @tsteningCCT.

Cape Cod Times - Mashpee weighs wastewater management options

Cape Cod Times
By Doug Fraser
Posted Aug 12, 2019 at 9:29 PM
Updated Aug 13, 2019 at 7:44 AM

Researchers seek to head off blooming problem in Cape ponds

BREWSTER — Charles “Chuck” Madansky was busy setting up what appeared to be a plastic tote on top of a pole driven into the sandy bottom of a small cove on Cliff Pond.

“It’s a bit of a Rube Goldberg contraption,” he acknowledged, referring to the late inventor famous for his chain-of-event sketches.

The inside of the tote was crammed with plastic tubing and filters, and a small pump hummed steadily. Madansky fitted what looked like four desk lamps onto the tote, the long articulated necks dipping nearly to the water, ending in lampshades fitted with mosquito-netting that nearly touched the pond surface.

The “contraption” was collecting gases coming off the water, generated through evaporation or wave action. The tubing and filters were a way to condense and store what is in those gases, particularly the microscopic cyanobacteria that produce toxins that can be harmful to wildlife, pets and humans.

“Cyanobacteria is one of the symptoms of how poorly we are treating the water and the earth,” said Madansky, a volunteer with the Brewster Ponds Coalition, which is monitoring several of the town’s ponds for the bacteria.

Although the state does not require testing for cyanobacteria, which will sometimes manifest as a green or blue-green scum on ponds, testing of nearly 30 Cape ponds is underway this summer by the health departments of several towns and water quality advocacy groups with help from the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, backed up by researchers at the University of New Hampshire Center for Freshwater Biology.

Cyanobacteria occur worldwide in calm, nutrient-rich waters, according to an advisory from the Environmental Protection Agency. There are nearly 6,300 species of cyanobacteria, and approximately 46 are toxic to humans. They must be tested for because they cannot be distinguished with the naked eye. Haney said the toxins may serve as a defense in microbial warfare; many are released when the cell is damaged or killed and in turn kill off zooplankton grazing on them. But research also has shown that they may help in gathering essential elements the cell uses.

Some species make cyanotoxins that are among the most powerful in nature, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In animals, a couple of tablespoons can cause death in as little as a half-hour to as long as a day and have killed creatures as large as cattle.

The Cape has had no reported human incidents, but animals have been affected, including two dogs that died and two others that were sickened in 1998 after eating some blue-green algae scum at Cliff Pond.

Association to Preserve Cape Cod data resulted in at least a half-dozen Cape ponds being closed to swimming this summer, and others are operating under advisories because of high cyanobacterial amounts that would not have been detected with state-mandated beach water quality testing. Such testing focuses on fecal coliform bacteria that indicate that viruses and other disease-causing organisms may be present due to human or animal waste.

“The existing system is utterly reactive. You have to notice visible scum on the pond,” association Executive Director Andrew Gottlieb said. Samples are then taken and sent to a state lab, and it can take days to get a result.

“There’s a built-in delay during which people and pets get exposed to potentially dangerous levels of toxins,” Gottlieb said. The association conferred with the EPA and UNH researchers. Using grant money, it stocked a lab with equipment, including a fluorometer that can estimate bloom density using pigments. It bought kits to do the sampling and hired summer interns. The association’s intent is to help towns and pond coalitions with lab work, equipment and, in some cases, by doing the sampling, Gottlieb said.

Samples are analyzed daily, put through the fluorometer, and identified as to the strain under a microscope to determine the progress of the bloom. Towns can then enact a closure ahead of time, Gottlieb said.

Madansky’s device, developed by UNH researchers, was for a different study that looks at long-term exposure to the smallest cyanobacteria cells that become airborne and can be inhaled. Studies have tentatively correlated clusters of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and Alzheimer’s cases to areas that have recurring cyanobacterial blooms.

The Brewster Pond Coalition paid for its own kits to do the sampling. Water samples are gathered using a plankton net tossed out into deeper water from shore and hauled in. Water and small animals and plant life floating in it are collected in the fine screen netting and transferred to a bottle for analysis.

UNH professor James Haney said researchers have been working on a way to use pigment of the samples to determine the potential level of toxicity, but Scott Gallager, an associate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, believes he has already developed an instrument that can identify most of the species that produce toxins and will operate 24 hours a day sampling water without human intervention.

Through his company, Coastal Ocean Vision of North Falmouth, Gallager created an autonomously operating water sampling device that contains a microscope that can magnify and photograph cells and then ship the results to his laptop using cellphone technology. The device also uses a laser whose beam excites the carbon bonds in the bacteria. These bonds vibrate differently depending on the species, and the return signal is molecular fingerprint, Gallager said.

He hopes to deploy one of five autonomously operating labs in Santuit Pond in Mashpee by next week, and four other prototypes will be sent to other locations in the U.S. where cyanobacterial blooms occur.

Nationally, cyanobacteria is the focus of increasing federal effort and grant money after it was detected in 2014 in the Toledo, Ohio, public water system and resulted in a drinking water ban that caused some panic, water hoarding and even fights over bottled water, according to a Michigan Radio NPR story.

The worst blooms occur in agricultural states where crop fertilizer and farm animal waste washes into streams, rivers and lakes. The EPA is especially concerned about areas that get their drinking water from surface waters, such as Toledo, which draws from Lake Erie.

Researchers are concerned that the higher temperatures brought by climate change are more favorable to these bacteria.

“Cyanobacteria like it hot,” said Donald Anderson, the U.S. director for Harmful Algal Blooms and a senior scientist at WHOI. With more moisture in the air due to global warming, the Cape has been seeing more of its water delivered in torrential rainstorms. That causes more stormwater runoff and discharge into surface water bodies.

“When you talk about climate change, typically people say there will be more of these blooms in fresh water,” Anderson said. “That’s a problem that’s not going away, and it’s getting worse on the Cape and elsewhere.”

What doesn’t help is the Cape’s problem with nutrient loading of groundwater and surface water bodies by septic systems that handle wastewater treatment for more than 80 percent of the region’s homes and businesses. The region is spending billions of dollars to reduce the flow of nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients that promote explosive growth of algae in water.

“Reducing the footprint of humans is really important,” said Haney, who is worried that rising temperatures and a steady flow of nutrients could result in more ponds closed due to cyanobacterial blooms.

“You can’t change climate change, but you can have an effect on nutrients,” he said, noting that, even with hotter summers, it is still possible to constrain blooms by curtailing the flow of effluent into ponds.

“Give them both (heat and nutrients) and you’re in big trouble,” he said.

— Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.

Cape Cod Times - Researchers seek to head off blooming problem in Cape ponds

Cape Cod Times

Pitch made for Upper Cape wastewater facility

Executive boards on the Upper Cape have gotten a peek at a state-funded regional study that proposes tackling wastewater management to the tune of $155 million through local capital projects.

The towns participating in the study are Sandwich, Mashpee, Falmouth and Bourne. The study envisions a joint solution addressing the towns’ and region’s wastewater needs by building a larger wastewater treatment facility on Joint Base Cape Cod.

Each town’s collection system would connect to that expanded base infrastructure, which would serve as the regional facility.

The four towns were awarded two Community Compact Cabinet Efficiency and Regionalization grants as part of a state program, one in December 2016 and the other in late 2018.

Falmouth is the fiscal agent through which the grant money comes, according to Edward Leonard, senior project manager at Wright-Pierce, the engineering firm spearheading the study.

Barnstable joined the study earlier this year but was too late to have access to the grants. If it decides to be included in the resulting plan, the cost of the regional project would increase.

Leonard made a presentation to Sandwich on Aug. 1. Similar presentations were made to Falmouth and Mashpee on Monday and Bourne on Tuesday.

“It’s a sketch plan for what a regional facility would look like, how big it would need to be, what it would cost,” he said. “And then develop a roadmap to help the towns get from here to there if they choose to do so.”

The existing treatment plant on Joint Base Cape Cod can process roughly 75,000 to 100,000 gallons of effluent. However, that capacity addresses only 2% of the identified needs, according to the study.

As part of the plan, the towns would individually fund and build pipelines connecting their wastewater infrastructure to the base, additional transmission piping to get from the plant to the vicinity of the existing disposal site and expanded disposal facilities, Leonard said. He said there have been no decisions made so far about the type of disposal, whether it be land-based disposal or surface-water discharge into the Cape Cod Canal.

Leonard said the four towns have met more than a dozen times to discuss the regionalization effort, though historically there have been smaller town-to-town partnerships on the issue of wastewater management, specifically on reducing septic system runoff and nitrogen levels in shared watersheds.

“Each of the towns have been working with their adjacent town, but this is the first one where all four are together,” Leonard said.

Falmouth Town Manager Julian Suso said each town has different wastewater needs. Falmouth has two wastewater treatment facilities with very low nitrogen discharge, he said.

“It’s not drinkable water, but it’s treated to the fullest extent possible,” Suso said.

Bourne, Mashpee and Sandwich, on the other hand, have a number of small-scale treatment systems, primarily septic systems.

Mashpee officials have been squabbling over investments they’d like to make in wastewater infrastructure to help improve the nitrogen-burdened Popponesset and Waquoit bays. The water quality in all of the bays’ subbasins fail to meet state water quality standards, causing whole-scale habitat decline, according to Brian Howes, professor of marine science and technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Mashpee selectmen have attempted to salvage a couple of big ticket articles slated for town meeting this fall that seek funds to design a sewer collection system and wastewater treatment plant. The fate of those proposed wastewater warrant articles is unclear.

Bourne officials responded positively to the presentation, but were concerned about the impact high-volume discharge from the base would have on the canal.

Judith Froman, chairwoman of the Bourne Board of Selectmen, said she is concerned about “the types of pollutants that would still be in that water,” including how it might affect the livelihood of recreational and commercial fishing there.

— Follow Tanner Stening on Twitter: @tsteningCCT.

Cape Cod Times - Pitch made for Upper Cape wastewater facility

Barnstable Patriot
By Bronwen Howells Walsh
Posted Aug 7, 2019 at 9:03 AM
Updated Aug 9, 2019 at 10:45 AM

$12 million water plant build gets underway in Hyannis

The Hyannis Water System and officials from Mass DEP held a both a ceremonial and a literal groundbreaking Wednesday for construction of a new $12 million water filtration building at the Maher Water Treatment Plant.

The upgrade to the water system will enable Hyannis to meet stricter federal and state regulations for the emerging contaminants like PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane.

Gary Moran, deputy commissioner of operations at Mass DEP, called the new water treatment facility an important milestone in Barnstable’s proactive efforts to address emerging contaminants.

“That’s not the approach that everyone is taking,” Moran said during a morning press conference onsite at the Maher Wellfield off Old Yarmouth Road. “Communities are trying to keep up with new (EPA) guidelines. We really do commend the town in stepping up. Not only is Barnstable ahead of the curve, they have a seasonal population explosion that’s unique” in its demands on the water system.

The Hyannis Water Board, established to provide citizen input and oversight for the DPW Water Supply Division, recommended building the new water filtration building near the existing Maher treatment plant at 47 Old Yarmouth Road.

“Our water system is over 100 years old and has serious capital needs we have been diligently addressing,” said Stephen O’Neil, Hyannis Water Board chairman. “The construction of this state-of-the-art filtration plant will be a pro-active investment in the future of the Hyannis Water System.”

Dan Santos, Barnstable director of Public Works, said once operational in the fall of 2021, the new plant will allow the Hyannis Water system “to continue to provide adequate supplies of drinking water to businesses, residents, and tourist that meets all federal and state standards.”

The new facility will have a design capacity of 1,500 gallons per minute. The plant will remove PFAS with activated carbon filtration; 1,4-Dioxane by advanced oxidation with peroxide and ultraviolet light (UV); and iron and manganese by greensand filtration.

Construction actually got underway during the press conference, as heavy machinery dug into the turf behind the speakers’ podium. “We’re providing contract incentive money to have it completed early,” said Hans Keijser, superintendent of the DPW Water Supply Division.

Contractors for the project include Tata & Howard, an environmental engineering leader in the Northeast. Waterline Industries Corporation of Seabrook, NH will construct the filtration building.

Financing for the water filtration project is provided by borrowing from the Mass DEP State Revolving Fund, “with principal forgiveness resulting in a lower interest rate to minimize financial impacts to the rate payers,” Santos said.

The Hyannis Water System consists of four water treatment facilities, four storage tanks, 12 well pumping stations, and a 107-mile distribution system. The system provides drinking water services to about 18,000 residents through 7,249 metered service connections to residential and commercial properties. Supplying its drinking water from ground sources, the Hyannis Water System draws about 2.77 million gallons per day from wells with an annual production of 902 million gallons.

The upgrade to the water system was recommended in a 2016 final conceptual design report and confirmed in a 2017 pilot test report, and approved by the Barnstable Town Council in March 2017.

The $6.5 million carbon filtration plant already operating at the Maher wellfield treats about 30 percent of the Hyannis water system’s total production capacity, according to Rob Steen, assistant director of Barnstable DPW.

The latest upgrade to the water system was recommended in the 2016 final conceptual design report, confirmed in the 2017 pilot test report, and approved by the Barnstable Town Council in March 2017.

To date, the town has spent about $20 million on cleaning up Barnstable’s groundwater, Santos said.

“To quote our town manager, ‘There’s nothing more important than drinking water.’ We’re all part of the process” of keeping Barnstable’s groundwater clean, Santos said.

Council President Jim Crocker said water is a commodity that we’ve all become all-to-used to.

“Can you imagine if we sent people to Cape Cod Hospital and handed them bottled water because the drinking water wasn’t safe?” Crocker posited.

Also attending the groundbreaking was Cheryl Osimo, executive director of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and co-founder of its sister organization, the Cape & Islands Silent Spring Institute.

“We really could not do our research without the support of Dan Santos, Hans Keijser, and Mark Ells,” Osimo said. “They will be recognized worldwide” for their efforts to safeguard the community’s drinking water supply.

Barnstable Patriot - $12 million water plant build gets underway in Hyannis

Cape Cod Times

New Hyannis building will better treat water for PFAS

Contaminants will be brought in line with new standards.

HYANNIS — The Hyannis Water System has begun work on a new $12 million water filtration building at the Maher Water Treatment Plant off Old Yarmouth Road.

The new facility will enable the system to meet anticipated new federal and state regulations that will be stricter for contaminants of emerging concern, including PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane.

“It’s a new beginning for water treatment in this town,” said Stephen O’Neil, chairman of the Hyannis Water Board.

The new water filtration building will have a capacity of 1,500 gallons per minute. It will remove PFAS with activated carbon filtration and remove 1,4-Dioxane by advanced oxidation with peroxide and ultraviolet light.

Barnstable Public Works Director Daniel Santos said the new building will have a number of components and multistage treatment systems, valves, piping and controls that represent the latest technology available.

The building is expected to be completed in approximately 13 months, but contractors have incentives to accelerate the project, according to Santos.

Three of the system’s 12 wells are located at the Maher site, and two of them are currently shut down, pending completion and implementation of the new water filtration building.

The project is being financed through the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s State Revolving Fund Drinking Water Program. The program provides communities low-cost financing to assist in complying with federal and state drinking water requirements and to protect public health.

“State Revolving Fund loans are vital to the efforts of local communities as they seek to repair, expand and upgrade their drinking water and wastewater infrastructure,” Edmund Coletta, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said in an email to the Times. “MassDEP is pleased to see these funds supporting this important project in Hyannis, which will address the issue of contaminants impacting source water wells and produce a clean, fresh supply for the system’s customers.”

The new water filtration building and technology will provide the system with an advantage to meet new standards proposed by the state that would significantly reduce permitted levels of the contaminants.

Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Protection proposed revisions to rules for cleanups of sites with groundwater affected by PFAS, as well as new drinking water standards that are much more stringent than current requirements. In both cases, the proposed revisions would reduce the acceptable level of PFAS from 70 parts per trillion to 20 parts per trillion.

In addition, the new water filtration system will remove manganese and iron from the water system by a greensand filtration process.

“There are standards for (magnesium and iron), but it also makes treatment of PFAS more efficient when you remove them,” Santos said.

The new water filtration building will also provide a significant cost savings to the Hyannis Water System by eliminating the need to purchase water from Yarmouth. Hyannis has been buying water from that town since 2015 to meet demand after closure of some wells due to contaminant levels that exceeded a federal health advisory.

The Hyannis Water System currently pays approximately $1 million per year to purchase water from Yarmouth, according to Santos.

Barnstable Town Council President James Crocker praised Santos and his team for incentivizing accelerated construction, saying the savings from purchasing water would more than offset any incentives offered.

PFAS are a class of man-made chemicals considered to be contaminants of emerging concern thought to be associated with adverse health effects. They are commonly found in firefighting foams, stain- and water-resistant products, coatings, outdoor clothing, carpets and many other household items.

The liquid 1,4-Dioxane, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a likely carcinogen, is used in the manufacture of chemicals and found in many products, including paint strippers, aircraft de-icing fluids and some consumer products such as deodorants and cosmetics.

Efforts to remediate groundwater and soil contamination are currently underway at the Barnstable County Fire and Rescue Training Academy and Barnstable Municipal Airport, where products containing the chemicals have been used in the past.

PFAS contamination twice has triggered temporary public health advisories in Hyannis since 2015. The advisories warned a “sensitive group” including infants, pregnant women and nursing mothers against consuming water from the Hyannis water supply.

“This will treat the water down to the proposed new standards, and (beyond) to zero,” Santos said. “There will be no PFAS in the system when it’s up and running.”

— Follow Geoff Spillane on Twitter: @GSpillaneCCT.

Cape Cod Times - New Hyannis building will better treat water for PFAS
July 26, 2019
Barbara Moran

Summertime, And Toxic Algae Is Blooming: Here's What You Need To Know

The state Department of Public Health is warning people to keep themselves — and their pets — out of the lower Charles River Basin, from the BU Bridge to the Museum of Science, because of toxic algae.

And it's not just the Charles: As of Thursday, the DPH has posted alerts for eight harmful algae blooms in the state, from Cape Cod to central Massachusetts.

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Here's what you need to know to stay safe this summer.

Toxic algae? What's that?

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, blooms in freshwater and produces a toxin that is harmful to humans. If you swim in affected water and swallow a lot of it, it can lead to stomach cramps and nausea, hay fever-like symptoms, or liver failure and death in extreme cases. Touching the water can also cause skin rashes.

What does it look like?

Sometimes it's a green scum on the water's surface, but it can also look like green paint, bright green strands or pea soup.

Green-blue algae blooms dot the surface of the Charles River along the esplanade by Community Boating. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Green-blue algae blooms dot the surface of the Charles River along the esplanade by Community Boating. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Is this the same thing as red tide?

No. "Red tide" occurs in saltwater and affects shellfish. In Massachusetts it's caused mainly by two organisms — Alexandrium and Pseudo-nitzschia — which produce toxin. When shellfish eat these organisms, the toxin accumulates in their bodies to levels that can be very dangerous for humans.

On the upside, it's generally safe to swim in the ocean during red tide outbreaks "because you just can't swallow enough of the algae to be dangerous," says Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution biologist and algae expert Don Anderson. He adds that the red tides we see in Massachusetts are less likely to cause respiratory problems, as happens in Florida.

Is it safe to swim in areas where there's blue-green algae?

No. "I would try to avoid it," says Anderson. "It can be dangerous, especially to young children who may swallow a lot of water."

Marc Nascarella, chief toxicologist for the Department of Public Health, goes further when speaking about the Charles generally: "Never really under any circumstances do we advise that individuals swim in the Charles River, because it is not routinely sampled for bacteria to evaluate its safety," he says.

Is it safe to go boating where there's blue-green algae?

Probably, if you stay out of the water. If you get splashed with algae-infected water, rinse it off as soon as possible, or you may get a rash.

How do you know if there's an algae bloom?

There's no statewide clearinghouse for blue-green algae blooms, so look for signs posted at specific lakes, ponds and rivers, or notices from towns. The state Department of Public Health does post advisories, when it receives them. "We only update it when we become aware that a water body operator or other entity has issued an advisory. It should not be considered comprehensive," says Alison Cohen, a spokesperson for the DPH.

Why are dogs always getting poisoned by blue-green algae?

When dogs swim in affected water, they often drink a lot of it, and also get algae in their fur and then lick it off, says Nascarella. So they ingest a lot of toxin.

And here's another thing: Freshwater algae can wash up on the shores of the lakes, where it becomes a tempting snack for dogs. "It'll get all crunchy like potato chips, and the dogs love to eat that," says WHOI's Anderson. They can get very badly poisoned, he says, and even die.

Is drinking water in Massachusetts safe?

Nascarella says: "I'm not aware of harmful algal blooms that have impacted drinking water sources as of yet."

Will these toxic algae blooms get worse because of climate change?

Yup. Blue-green algae loves hot weather and nutrient-laden stormwater. So as the region sees more hot days and more heavy rainstorms, says Nascarella, "I think that harmful algal blooms will get more and more common."

Is there anything people can do to help prevent algae blooms?

Blue-green algae blooms are fed by nutrient runoff, especially phosphorus, says Emily Norton, executive director of the Charles River Watershed Association. She says people can help by not putting fertilizer on their lawns or by switching to electric vehicles. "There's actually phosphorus in the gasoline that drips onto the roads and gets into the stormwater runoff," she says.

Also: support green infrastructure like parks and rain gardens, which will also help mitigate the effects of climate change.

This segment aired on July 26, 2019.


Barnstable Patriot

‘Green’ stormwater systems helping clean coastal waters

The first two in a series of planned nature-based stormwater treatment systems were recently completed in the Three Bays watershed in Barnstable.

Across Cape Cod, many coastal waters like the Three Bays are threatened and impaired by excess nutrients and bacteria coming from human activities on land. Bacteria from pet and wildlife waste cause beach and shellfish closures, and the nitrogen from septic, fertilizers and stormwater results in coastal algal blooms and fish kills.

The new rain garden at Cordwood Landing in Cotuit captures and treats rain runoff flowing into Cotuit Bay, and the sand filter at Prince Cove Marina removes pollution before entering Prince Cove. Both systems are designed to maximize removal of bacteria and nitrogen to help clean up our waters. These “green infrastructure” systems do this by using native plants, specific soils, and design conditions that filter and break down pollutants from stormwater before it flows into the bays.

The systems were designed and constructed as part of a project managed by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, in partnership with the Town of Barnstable Department of Public Works, Horsley Witten Group, Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, and the Barnstable Land Trust.

“The Town of Barnstable is seeking to lead the way in installation of alternative stormwater systems such as these and has worked closely with the team throughout the project on planning, design and oversight of construction,” said Dan Santos, Barnstable Department of Public Works director.

Both sites were designed using native plants reducing maintenance needs, and providing habitat for wildlife and pollinators while addressing the problem unique to each site. The design at Cordwood Landing includes not only the new rain garden but also improvements to an existing system up the road previously installed by the Town.

“Balancing form and function were key when designing these systems,” explained Michelle West, project manager and water resources engineer with Horsley Witten Group. “For example, at Cordwood Landing, we stabilized the water access using porous pavers. The pavers prevent erosion of sediment that carries bacteria and other pollutants, allow rainwater to soak into the ground, and stabilize the access for the public. It’s a win, win, win!”

The Barnstable Land Trust, which owns the land, and the Nature Conservancy, which holds the conservation restriction, gave permission to use the space adjacent to Prince Cove Marina for the second of the two new systems.

“At the Barnstable Land Trust, our mission is to conserve land to protect and restore Barnstable’s natural resources,” said Janet Milkman, Barnstable Land Trust executive director. “This project amplifies the ability of the Prince Cove conservation parcel to protect and restore the land and water around it.”

“This is engineering with nature,” said April Wobst, Association to Preserve Cape Cod restoration ecologist and overall project manager. “By treating water as a resource and using green designs to help rain water soak in where it falls, we can go beyond traditional stormwater treatment, which focuses more on reducing flooding of roadways than pollution removal. With this new green infrastructure approach, we can do both.”

These new systems are part of a five-year project underway in the Three Bays watershed to assess, prioritize, design and install green stormwater solutions to improve water quality and habitat. Planning, design, permitting and construction is currently underway for other priority sites in the watershed, with additional systems anticipated for completion in late 2019 and early 2020.

In addition to creating new stormwater treatment systems, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod and the Town of Barnstable have partnered through Channel 18 to create a series of informational videos. The goal of the series is to educate and inform members of the public about what they can do to help keep our waters clean. The first video in the series, found at, provides an introduction to stormwater management.

This project is funded by the EPA Southeast New England Program Watershed Grants through a collaboration with Restore America’s Estuaries, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management Coastal Pollutant Remediation Grant Program and in-kind contributions from the project team. More information about the project is available at

Barnstable Patriot - ‘Green’ stormwater systems helping clean coastal waters

Cape Cod Times
By Doug Fraser
Posted Jul 1, 2019 at 8:15 PM
Updated at 7:25 AM

Red tide raises threat of shellfishing closures

Red tide that has been creeping down the coastline for over a month is now poised slightly north of Cape Cod.

The tide has caused shellfishing closures that now extend from the New Hampshire border south to Duxbury.

The red tide algae, Alexandrium fundyense, produces a neurotoxin that can cause a condition called paralytic shellfish poisoning. The condition can cause tingling and numbness of the lips, tongue and extremities; drowsiness and dizziness; vomiting; respiratory arrest; and even death if the shellfish are eaten in sufficient quantities.

Filter-feeding species such as soft-shelled clams, blue mussels, surf clams, quahogs, bay scallops, oysters and some snails and whelks accumulate the toxin in their tissues as they feed on the algae. Once the bloom crashes and there are no more red tide algae in the water, they continue to metabolize these cells and purge the toxin from their meats. They are usually safe to eat within three days after the algae bloom ends.

The state Division of Marine Fisheries, along with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the states of Maine and New Hampshire, closely monitor the concentration and progress of the algae along the coastline after they hatch from cyst fields in Maine and are carried south by coastal currents and wind.

This year’s bloom was aided by a wet May and June that washed nutrients into the sea to feed the algae, said WHOI senior scientist Donald Anderson, an internationally renowned expert in harmful algal blooms. Anderson said Alexandrium fundyense algae also do especially well in layers of low-salinity water that form in the upper layer of coastal waters as stormwater washes off the land and from rivers into the sea.

“We have seen high cell concentrations in (Massachusetts) Bay this year,” Anderson said.

While the coastal currents can carry the cells offshore, saving inshore shellfish beds, easterly winds like those through the spring help pen them up against the shore. A large mass of cells in Massachusetts Bay resulted in closures on the north and south shores that began June 10, with closures progressing south through the rest of the month.

In March, the Division of Marine Fisheries begins testing locations along the coast and sampling mussels, which tend to accumulate and purge algae and toxins more quickly than other species. When high levels of toxin begin appearing in mussels, the state agency increases testing from once a week to twice a week, and begins testing other shellfish species.

As of Monday, Michael Hickey, chief shellfish biologist for the agency, said it was hard to predict whether the red tide will make it to Cape Cod.

“A lot is based on the wind direction,” Hickey said.

On Monday, the wind was coming out of the west and should be pushing the tide offshore, Hickey said. But cell counts are still high up into New Hampshire and Maine, he said.

Hickey said he expected to get an update late Monday after samples taken that day were processed in the lab.

The last big red tide event was in 2005, which led to shellfishing closures from Maine to Nantucket. The closures caused millions of dollars in lost summer revenue for shellfishermen and affiliated businesses.

— Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter:@dougfrasercct.

Red tide raises threat of shellfishing closures - Cape Cod Times
JUN 28, 2019

The Cape Has 1,000 Freshwater Ponds. How Many Are Toxic?

Ted Kingsley fishes at Santuit Pond in Mashpee. The pond is experiencing significant impacts from a blue-green algae bloom that can pose serious public health risks.

On a typical June evening at Santuit Pond in Mashpee, fishermen like Ted Kingsley can be found perched by the shore, or wading through the water, looking for bass.

“The [deepest] I've been -- up to my ankles in it, maybe,” Kingsley said.

He said he won’t go in past his ankles, though; something about the water isn’t right.

The transparency ends about a foot-and-a-half past the shore, and it has a blue-green cast, almost the color and clarity of pea soup – a common reaction to an overabundance of micro-organisms called a cyanobacteria bloom.

When blooms form, some types of cyanobacteria release dangerous toxins that can pose public health risks.

Of the approximately 1,000 freshwater ponds on Cape Cod, only 22 are being monitored for algal blooms that can cause health problems ranging from skin irritation, to fevers, to major organ damage. And the number of these blooms could be growing.

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) has been at the forefront of the effort to monitor the ponds and notify the public.

When testing Santuit, the APCC found levels of the bacteria were about 10 ten percent above the point at which the Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommends ponds be closed for recreation.

There are now several warning signs around the pond’s public entrance telling people not to swim or even let their pets go in.

But those levels might not tell the whole story, according to Keith Loftin, of the United States Geological Survey.

“Since we don’t know why toxins are produced and what controls [them]…. it’s hard to know when a bloom is going to become toxic,” Loftin said.

The toxins can be ingested or inhaled, but it’s not always clear what effect they’ll have on different people.

In recent years, researchers have observed lakes and ponds around the country with toxin levels so high, they’ve been connected to a series of dog deaths. The toxins also could affect wildlife like ospreys and bald eagles that fish and forage around the pond.

Even still, these algae blooms aren’t new, nor is it clear whether they’ve increased in recent years. But cyanobacteria have been shown to thrive when they're in warm water and have access to nutrients from fertilizers and septic systems.

“One of the effects of the warming trend that we’ve seen over the last decades, is that we're creating ... broader climate conditions that are conducive to allowing cyanobacteria to proliferate and outcompete other species,” according to Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of APCC.

With climate change in mind, researchers from institutions like Tufts, MIT, and the EPA are narrowing in on the future of these blooms. They predict that in the next 70 years a combination of extreme weather and population growth will produce even more nutrients that will seep into our water bodies, which have steadily warmed over decades.

That recipe is expected make these blooms even more prevalent.

“We’ve got global climate change, which is particularly intense in the Northeast, and we're over-enriching these waters with nutrients. So we're getting it on both ends,” Gottlieb said.

The APCC now is working with towns on the Cape and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to identify the best system of testing suspicious ponds and, in turn, alerting the public when necessary.

A sign posted by the public entrance to Santuit Pond in Mashpee warns people of a potentially dangerous cyanobacteria bloom.

A spokesperson from the MDPH said in a statement that the state “works with waterbody operators to evaluate and respond to these reports.”

Gottlieb said he’s worried that’s not enough.

“The problem is you've got a ... 200-acre pond. The town owns one particular spot as a boat launching ramp. There are two 8-by-11 sheets of paper with warnings, so it's a challenge to provide adequate public notice to the rest of the public.”

Still, there are solutions. Among them: targeted sewering to reduce nutrients seeping into ponds through groundwater. Also, Gottlieb said, lay off the fertilizers.

“People really ought to think hard about what they’re doing on their own properties because it can have a meaningful impact on solving or limiting the effects of this issue while the larger, systemic issues are being worked on.”

In the meantime, he’s not taking any chances.

“I will say this: I had my dogs at work with me today, and before we came I dropped them off at home because I didn’t want them walking around the water here,” said Gottlieb.

But what will it take to stop Ted Kingsley from fishing in Santuit?

“Well  if I don't  catch any fish,” he said, “I don't want to fish here anymore.”

The Cape Has 1,000 Freshwater Ponds. How Many Are Toxic? -

Cape Cod Times
By Geoff Spillane
Posted Jun 26, 2019 at 6:38 PM
Updated at 6:32 AM

Barnstable Board of Health says no to amended regulations

More work needed on wastewater plan.

HYANNIS — Barnstable is making progress on developing and funding a comprehensive wastewater management plan, but not enough to convince its Board of Health to lift decade-old interim regulations affecting development in much of the town.

After a five month hiatus, a public hearing that began in late 2018 on proposed amendments to saltwater estuary protection regulations resumed, and ended, at the Health Board’s meeting on Tuesday.

In a 2-1 decision, the board voted to maintain the regulations as written. Board Member John Norman was the dissenting vote.

The regulations, which were adopted in 2009, restrict construction of individual sewage systems in most of the town south of Route 6 to protect the Popponesset Bay, Three Bays and Centerville River watersheds. They were intended to be temporary and only in effect until the town adopted and implemented a comprehensive plan to reduce the amount of nitrogen in its estuaries.

The words “adopted” and “implemented,” it turned out, were key factors in the board’s decision.

The proposed amendment would have lifted the regulations in all areas except the Craigville Beach Zoning District, which is under the jurisdiction of the Cape Cod Commission. Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells, though, said earlier this year that his focus was for relief along a 500-foot buffer on both sides of Route 28 to pursue housing development and economic opportunities to generate revenue for the town.

Barnstable Public Works Director Daniel Santos addressed the board Tuesday to provide an update on the town’s progress on wastewater management projects and its three-phase, 60-year sewering project. He also wanted to “quell voices” suggesting the town does not have a plan.

While a draft comprehensive wastewater management plan is not scheduled to be delivered to the Town Council, Cape Cod Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection until fall, Santos highlighted several initiatives completed, underway or planned in Barnstable. Those include Phinney’s Lane, Long Pond area and Attucks Lane sewer expansions; Cotuit Bay channel dredging; a pump station and collection system at the Marstons Mills School; several improvements to the town’s water pollution control facility; and potentially aligning with Upper Cape towns to utilize wastewater treatment facilities at Joint Base Cape Cod.

In addition, the Town Council unanimously approved an $8.5 million appropriation last week to construct sewer infrastructure simultaneously and along the same route Vineyard Wind plans to run an underground transmission line in town.

“In conclusion, it’s important for you to know there’s a very robust plan,” Santos said. “No town on the Cape has put more personnel or financial resources into their wastewater plan. Not a single one.”

Dr. Paul Canniff, chairman of the Board of Health, focused on the verbiage of the regulations, specifically the temporary status until a plan was adopted and implemented.

“When the pipes go into the ground, you are there,” he said. “Not three to four to five years before.”

Canniff also mentioned that since the interim regulations went into effect, the board has granted variances to projects if an applicant can meet certain criteria.

Several audience members, as they have done during the past four public hearing sessions, offered comments.

Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, applauded the town for strides it has made to move forward with wastewater projects, but thought the plan would take too long to complete.

“When and if it’s implemented, I’ll be 124-years-old, God willing,” he said. Crocker added that local waters have been compromised early in the summer this year, suggesting regulations could be even stricter.

Crocker’s colleague, Casey Dannhauser, told the board it would be irresponsible to lift the regulations until improvements begin to be seen in the town’s waterways.

Barnstable Town Councilor Jessica Rapp Grassetti referred to the town’s wastewater management efforts to date as “fabulous,” adding that she is happy to vote in favor of appropriations. But she urged the Board of Health to withdraw the agenda item until results of sewering projects in the works could be demonstrated.

“I’m very relieved,” Rapp Grassetti said after the meeting. “Now we can work on finalizing a draft (wastewater management plan) and acceptance by the Mass. DEP and Cape Cod Commission.”

— Follow Geoff Spillane on Twitter: @GSpillaneCCT.

Cape Cod Times - Barnstable Board of Health says no to amended regulations.

Cape Cod Times
By Doug Fraser
Posted Jun 24, 2019 at 6:19 PM
Updated Jun 25, 2019 at 6:02 AM

Toxic blooms prompt Cape pond advisories

Heavy rains lead to warnings at 5 freshwater spots.

BARNSTABLE — People and their pets are being advised to avoid all contact with the water in three Cape Cod ponds after an unusually wet spring helped cause toxic bacterial blooms.

Water samples revealed cyanobacteria blooms in Santuit Pond in Mashpee, Bearse Pond in Barnstable and Upper Mill Pond in Brewster, and warnings were issued Friday for recreational users to avoid contact with the water, according to a statement Monday from the Association to Preserve Cape Cod. The advisories were issued by the three towns with the backing of the state Department of Public Health, the statement says.

Brewster Health Agent Nancy Ellis Ice said Monday that the advisory on Upper Mill Pond would likely be removed after the most recent testing showed that levels had dropped.

The town of Barnstable also has issued advisories for Lake Wequaquet and Hinckley Pond recommending that pet owners keep animals out of the water.

Cliff Pond at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, Lovells Pond in Barnstable and Scargo Lake in Dennis are “ponds of concern” and are being closely monitored, the statement says.

“Compared to recent seasons, the presence of cyanobacteria and HCBs (harmful cyanobacteria blooms) in ponds across the Cape in 2019 has so far been significantly greater,” the association statement says.

Cyanobactera produce cyanotoxins that can be absorbed through the skin or by swallowing the water and can damage the liver and nervous system in humans in severe cases. In some cases the toxins can be inhaled when downwind of a lake experiencing a bloom.

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod is monitoring 22 Cape ponds in conjunction with the Brewster Ponds Coalition, Friends of Chatham Waterways, Indian Ponds Association, several towns and the University of New Hampshire, and may expand to other locations later in the summer, according to the statement. Barnstable is monitoring another 20 of its own ponds.

Other ponds may be affected but are not yet being monitored. The Cape has about 1,000 freshwater ponds, according to the statement.

Rain washes nutrients, including septic effluent and lawn fertilizer, into ponds and that promotes the growth of these naturally occurring bacteria.

“This will be a problem for all the Cape towns,” said Mashpee Natural Resources Director Richard York, because, although towns can clean up ponds by dealing with nutrient loading and nitrogen in the bottom sediments, it cannot control how much will flow into the ponds from frequent rainstorms, especially the heavy downpours attributed to climate change. Warmer temperatures mean more moisture in the air and a better growing environment for bacteria, he said.

The association has an online interactive map and informational page at

— Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.

Cape Cod Times - Toxic blooms prompt Cape pond advisories

Mashpee Enterprise

Santuit Pond Sounds Alarm On Freshwater

In the summer, the blue-green algae bloom in Santuit Pond has seemingly become commonplace.

For the third year in a row, the water in the pond looks green rather than clear. A mat of greenish algae recently became evident, too.

The Mashpee Health Department has installed signs around public access and swimming areas warning that people should minimize exposure to the water and keep animals from drinking it. Swimming is not recommended.

“This is more than an aesthetics issue,” said Andrew R. Gottlieb, chairman of the board of selectmen, during a meeting Monday, June 17. “We need to do something about it.”

The first order of business, the chairman said, is to notify the public before coming up with a more long-term solution.

The bacteria has a potential to be toxic and creates a toxin similar to one thought to have led to the death of a dog who drank water out of a pond in Brewster in the 1990s.

The bacteria is cyanobacteria, a natural occurring part of a pond’s food system, but given the right conditions, it can lead to an overabundance of the bacteria and to algae blooms.

And given enough concentration of it, it can produce harmful toxins, even release aerosol, and, when ingested, lead to liver damage. It can also degrade the vitality of a pond, leading to fish kills.

How this bacteria turns into a more toxic, dangerous bacteria is still being explored by researchers on the federal level.

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod, a local environmental watchdog, recently launched a project to monitor the bacteria found in freshwater ponds across the Cape. Part of the project is to keep municipalities and the public informed when the bacteria blooms before the threat of exposure.

Mr. Gottlieb is executive director of the association.

Since last week, the association has found levels of cyanobacteria in several ponds of the some 20 they have studied.

High levels of the bacteria were found in ponds including Lovell’s, Hinckley, Wequaquet and Bearse’s ponds in Barnstable.

For Bearse’s Pond, the Town of Barnstable has issued a similar recreational use advisory as Mashpee has for Santuit Pond, and has warned the public to limit exposure to the pond’s water.

Scargo Lake in Dennis, Upper and Lower Mill, Cliff and Sheep ponds in Brewster, and Stillwater Pond in Chatham all recorded levels of the bacteria as well, according to recording by the APCC.

Outside of the APCC’s reporting, Shawme Pond in downtown Sandwich recently had a fresh batch of the bacteria as well, with scientists in that town indicating that it likely came from the recent heavy rains washing fertilizers into the pond.

Bryan Horsley, a restoration technician, has led the sampling project with the APCC, which is based on a model approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr. Horsley said that cyanobacteria has become more and more common as it has been identified in many Cape ponds recently, and he thinks it is only going to worsen.

“I don’t see it getting better unless we make some big changes,” he said. “It’s pretty sad to see this happening.”

The restoration technician said that the reasons for the bacteria’s emergence are likely the combination of climate change—increased water temperature—and the concentrated development of the Cape around these ponds.

More homes means more nutrients finding their way into water bodies. The conditions are a “perfect storm” for the bacteria to grow and the blooms to spread, he said.

By tracking the ecology of a pond overtime, Mr. Horsley said that they can actually forecast these bloom events and warn the public before it is too late.

Santuit is an example of a success for this model, given that conditions for the pond have been tracked for the last few years. APCC informed the town late last week that the association suspected an algae bloom was coming.

By Monday, the town had tested the pond itself and started to inform the public. Under a microscope, Richard H. York Jr., Mashpee’s director of natural resources, read a level of 76,533 cyanobacteria cells per milliliter. The state threshold for posting advisories is 70,000 cells/ml. Mr. York notified the health department and signs were posted around the pond.

By Wednesday, Mr. Horsley said that scum had begun to form; while the presence of the bacteria is not ideal, the APCC technician said that they were able to warn the public before the risk of exposure.

“I’m excited how well that worked,” he said.

Still, because little is known about cyanobacteria, some local health and natural resources departments outside Mashpee do not necessarily know how to react. Without naming names, Mr. Horsley said that some health departments on the Cape have not issued advisories at the ponds.

The APCC program started in 2017 with only a handful of ponds sampled, but the sampling has expanded every year since.

In the past, it could take a long time for the results of a water-body sample, but APCC is able to let municipalities know with a quick turnaround. The association is looking to track ponds across the Cape, but currently covers mostly the mid-Cape..

In Mashpee, Mr. York is working in tandem with the health department to keep on an eye on the bacteria, but they have yet to identify the harmful toxin. The natural resources department director said that some cyanobacteria can contain toxins including Anabaena and Microcystis, which have been abundant in past blooms, but a bloom of a potentially toxic species might or might not be toxic at a given time. If floating algae that looks like scum is present, it can be more toxic per unit volume because it is concentrated on the surface, Mr. York said.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports that these toxins can produce adverse health effects. Toxins are released from intact cyanobacteria cells when they die in the water body or when they are ingested by animals or humans. Once ingested, the digestive juices destroy their cell wall (lysing or breaking down the cell membrane) and the toxin is released into the gastrointestinal tract.

Mr. York said that residents can still boat on Santuit, even fish, although just catch and release. He did not recommend eating fish from the pond until further study.

Santuit did have a few years without an abundance of cyanobacteria after the town installed a device called a SolarBee. In the years prior, the pond had been shut down for recreation. In the years from 2012 until 2016, Mr. York said that water-clarity levels had doubled and even tripled. But for the past three years, the bacteria has been back in full force, leaving some to question if the SolarBees can handle the loading.

Mr. Gottlieb said that the way forward to protecting ponds on the Cape is to control the source of the contamination, or essentially catching the abundance of nutrients before they get into the ponds.

One way to do that is by building sewers, which Cape municipalities and environmentalists have long been investigating to catch pollution running into region’s embayments. Mr. Gottlieb said that the emphasis has long been on the marine side, with freshwater ponds being just around the corner.

“We’ve turned that corner,” Mr. Gottlieb said.

Cape Cod Times
By Doug Fraser
Posted May 4, 2019 at 8:30 PM
Updated May 5, 2019 at 6:46 AM

Cape scientists, inmates explore life in the dead zones

EAST FALMOUTH — If you were looking out the window from one of the homes along the Eel River last Sunday, you saw a very different crew at work on the water.

A dozen or so fishermen-types were crowded onto two rafts. The larger float was anchored, but the smaller one, powered by a tiny outboard, was working its way methodically along a line of buoys, pausing at intervals determined by a laptop GPS flipped open on the decking while two crewmen plunged what looked like a hybrid post hole digger/bull rake into the water. The device brought up black mud from the pond bottom that was then dumped into individual crates, and shuttled via skiff to the larger raft.

Barnstable County Correctional Facility inmates Richy Lapointe and Robert LaBoissiere were pouring buckets of water into the crates carefully washing away the muck, like panning for gold, but picking out mostly broken shells, sometimes an occasional live razor clam or quahog. Lapointe and LaBoissiere had become desensitized to the rotten-egg smell emanating from the mix of sand, clay and organic matter pulled from the river bottom, the product, Falmouth town fisheries biologist Christine Lovely said, of specialized bacteria that could decompose organic material even in low or no-oxygen zones and produced hydrogen sulfide.

The smell was a sign that portions of the river had been slowly dying over the past 10 to 20 years. Nitrogen in septic system effluent acts like lawn fertilizer, fueling explosive growth in algae that that can be both unsightly and smelly. A few cloudy days and photosynthesis grinds to a halt. The bloom dies and the algal mats sink to the bottom and get swept by currents into low-lying portions of the river. Their decomposition sucks all the oxygen out of the water, forming anoxic dead zones that kill other plants and wildlife such as fish and shellfish.

Coring down into these dead zones was being done in part to address the concerns of shellfishermen in town who worried there might still be living quahog beds there.

Sunday’s work, with 144 corings, yielded just 11 stout razor clams, a species that seemed to be able to live in the low-oxygen zones, and a few quahogs. The razor clams were sent to Roger Williams University for study and spawning.

Lovely and Barnstable County Deputy Jeff Wiseman measured every mud core sample like it was a striped bass. LaBoissiere and Lapointe then washed out the muck and picked out the few survivors of what was essentially a blighted benthic ecosystem, pausing over each living thing, from lowly clam worm to fist-sized quahog, like it was a precious nugget.

“These are sweet,” said R. Charles “Chuck” Martinsen as he lifted the mustard-colored inhabitant of a slipper shell to his lips. Falmouth’s deputy director of marine and environmental services and the town’s shellfish constable, Martinsen was overseeing survey work for a pilot project to test the filtering power of oysters and other shellfish and whether these natural filtration organisms will make a quantifiable and substantial impact on nitrogen contamination in town estuaries.

The hope was that oysters, a sweeter and more universally accepted fare, could be coming out of the waters of these areas within a few years as a direct result of the work done Sunday, and that shellfishermen eventually would be bidding to set up aquaculture farms in the three Eel River survey zones.

But to get there, the shellfish projects intended for wastewater cleanup have to prove themselves. The Falmouth ponds and rivers that reach deep into the mainland from Nantucket Sound are so contaminated with nutrients that they chronically suffer from algae blooms. Scientific research has determined that between 72% and 100% of the nitrogen must be prevented from entering the water for those water bodies to recover to the point that they are suitable for bottom plants like eelgrass, and for swimming and fishing.

Typically that level of nitrogen removal could only be done through expensive sewering. But state and federal officials recognized that the public, faced with unprecedented costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars per town to clean up wastewater contamination of bays and ponds, was demanding cheaper alternatives should at least be tried. When the Cape Cod Commission updated the regional wastewater management plan in 2014, it evaluated more than 40 alternative nitrogen-removal technologies, including the use of shellfish, and the DEP and EPA signed off on their use, as long as monitoring showed they were effective.

The town already has installed pilot projects in Little Pond, Bournes Pond and Waquoit Bay, growing around 6.5 million scallops, clams, but mostly oysters. Each oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water per day, using the nitrogen to build their shell. A recent Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Sea Grant study was able to calibrate an average of the grams of nitrogen contained in oyster shells allowing for a more precise estimate of the efficacy of aquaculture projects in a wastewater plan. Other studies in Falmouth and Orleans looked at determining the amount of nitrogen in the tissue of these animals. A third line of inquiry looks at how feces and other indigestible particles excreted by shellfish that drifto the bottom may create an environment favorable to bacteria that also can remove nitrogen from the water.

The survey of three Eel River sites is scheduled to be completed this month, followed by hearings before the Conservation Commission and selectmen with permit applications for the sites sent to the state Division of Marine Fisheries in June. At the same time, the town will solicit applications from private aquaculturists with licenses awarded sometime in June or July.

Falmouth’s comprehensive wastewater management plan approved by the state includes the use of aquaculture to remove approximately 7.2% of the nitrogen from seven ponds, bays and harbors. The plan estimates that aquaculture will remove nearly 7,800 pounds of nitrogen a year from these water bodies, eliminating the need for 550 sewer connections. The remaining 92.8% of nitrogen will be handled through a combination of sewering and alternative technologies such as composting toilets, permeable underground barriers and low-tech solutions such as inlets, lawn fertilizer bans and improved stormwater management.

The goal is to be able to accurately quantify the amount of nitrogen being removed by the shellfish so the town is able to meet the nitrogen-removal goals laid out in the plan.

“People wanted to know how is it working, what is the amount that that is being removed, and we’re able to get a little bit closer to that answer,” Martinsen said.

Karplus said generally, the tissue contains about 40% of the total nitrogen, and the shell around 60%, but that can vary depending on the site and the growing technique, he said. That’s why the state Department of Environmental Protection requires each wastewater aquaculture project to submit tissue and shell samples to a lab to quantify the nitrogen content.

Last week, inmates Arthur Ashley and Al Randell worked on the smaller float with Karplus. The two inmates did the heavy work of shoving the coring device down into the muck, compressing the core sample as water squirted from the top of the device, then lifting that compact, heavy sample back onto the rack for loading into the individual crates.

Inmate Jason Battles worked in the skiff transporting the crates to the big float for processing.

The inmates selected for the project have to be nonviolent offenders near the end of their term. Lapointe, who lives in Harwich and is an electrician by trade, and LaBoissiere, a carpenter from Wakefield, both worked steadily as if they were on a job site.

“Who wouldn’t want to work?” said Lapointe, who will be released in October. LaBoissiere will be released next month.

If they were not on the work detail, Lapointe said they’d be inside the whole day with the exception of a few hours of recreation. Here, they work outdoors for most of the day, something that helps ease the transition to the real world.

“We’ve been working with the Barnstable County inmates and staff for approximately six years,” Martinsen said. The work crew built a propagation center for Falmouth that has grown tens of millions of shellfish, including oysters that will be used on the pilot project and in similar ones in Bourne and Orleans, Martinsen said.

“They’ve been wonderful to work with and they come here and learn a new skill,” he said. Some have gone on to find jobs in aquaculture.

Martinsen tells inmates that after their release they are welcome to come back, bring their families and children.

“They can show them what they did when they were here, that it’s something to be proud of and very fitting that they are making a contribution to the environment and fisheries of Cape Cod,” he said.

— Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.

Related content
Photo Gallery: Scientists, inmates team up for Falmouth shellfish project

Cape scientists, inmates explore life in the dead zones - Cape Cod Times

Wicked Local
By: David Kindy
Posted: Apr 22, 2019 @ 6:00 AM

Watershed Action Alliance event addresses water issues

It might not be too long before there are serious issues.

You walk to the sink, turn on the faucet and the water flows freely. That simple action is one of the reasons why this most precious resource is often taken for granted. Because it is so easy to access, most people rarely give a thought to water – unless there is a problem.

And it might not be too long before there are serious issues. Climate change, drought, development, pollution, loss of wetlands and other stressors could have devastating effects on the local water supply. Some communities already enforce restrictions on a year-round basis.

The annual conference of the Watershed Action Alliance sought to address many of these concerns. Titled ”Water: New England’s Next Big Challenge,” the daylong session featured experts from around the region discussing current and future threats and what can be done to mitigate them.

Topics covered water quality and quantity, water stressors, climate change, water replenishment, development trends, municipality preparedness and weather projections. The conference offered expertise, experience and the diverse perspectives of numerous local specialists in coming to grips with some difficult problems.

Speakers included John Mullaney, a groundwater specialist with the New England Water Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey, Joanne Zygmunt, commissioner of the Central Plymouth County Water District Commission, Eric Walberg, senior program leader for Climate Services at Manomet Inc., Sara Burns, water resource scientist with The Nature Conservancy, and Bill Napolitano, environmental program director of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District.

Principal speaker was Alex Hackman, a restoration ecologist and cranberry bog program manager for the Division of Ecological Restoration at the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. He discussed the importance of restoring wetlands to create ecological dynamism.

Hackman stated that that restoration means different things to different people. He outlined what communities need to do and how to do it right.

“Wetland and stream restoration projects can help local communities address current and future water issues,” he said. “Repairing key physical drivers of aquatic ecosystems, such as the natural movement and storage of water, allows them to be more healthy and dynamic. Restoration projects can produce outcomes that seem like miracles – and we can make them happen in our communities.”

The afternoon session also featured presentations by several member organizations about their programs to protect water quality and quantity: Neponset River Watershed AssociationNorth and South Rivers Watershed AssociationJones River Watershed AssociationSix Ponds Improvement AssociationHerring Ponds Watershed AssociationBarnstable Clean Water Coalition and Save the Bay - Narragansett Bay.

For more information about the Watershed Action Alliance, contact Dorie Stolley at, or visit

Wicked Local - Watershed Action Alliance event addresses water issues.

To view any of the presentations click here.

Cape Cod Times
By Brian Bushard
I&M Staff Writer
Posted Apr 7, 2019 at 10:25 PM
Updated Apr 8, 2019 at 6:13 AM

Are scalloping’s days numbered on Nantucket?

“Guys that scallop to the end are your veterans, your die-hards, guys who are out there. That’s their business.”

NANTUCKET — Nantucket bay scalloping is a dying profession, town shellfish constable J.C. Johnson said this week, just days after commercial scalloping season came to a close.

Fishermen brought in 13,000 bushels of scallops last season. That number was down by 10,000 bushels this year to around 3,000, making the season’s harvest one of the lowest ever, Johnson said.

Along with the decreased harvest size, the fleet itself is aging, with only a handful of young scallopers now fishing.

“We have a couple younger guys going out, but your veteran guys, Bill Spencer, Herkey Stojak, all those guys who have been scalloping for years are almost done, so what’s going to happen if you don’t have their kids following suit?” he asked.

“Guys that scallop to the end are your veterans, your die-hards, guys who are out there. That’s their business,” he said.

Carl Sjolund has been scalloping off Madaket for the past 50 years. He usually fishes the entire season. This year, however, he pulled his boat midway through January. Even though there were no serious nor’easters or major freeze-ups, he simply was not seeing any adult scallops.

Fish markets were paying scallopers $18 to $22 per pound this year. Last year that price was $12 to $15. Sjolund said the price difference was the incentive to fish this season.

Retail prices at fish markets began at $19 to $23 early in the season. As the season came to a close, the price had gone up to $40.

Blair Perkins did not stick around on the water this year, either. Just a week into the season, he was struggling to reach his limit of five bushels. He took his boat out of Madaket Harbor just 10 days into November. His season was over.

“The days of guys going out, making a living scalloping, are over,” Perkins said. “You would be foolish not to have other work to fall back on.”

In the summer Perkins leads whale watches and cruises with Shearwater Excursions.

“I tested out all over the harbor and all over Madaket Harbor, and I was really discouraged with what I saw, it was mostly seeds (immature scallops),” he said. “It’s really rare to see adult scallops.”

Part of the reason behind that, he said, is because many scallopers take nubs, adult scallops with smaller muscles but a normal-sized shell. The town and the state Division of Marine Fisheries, in 2008, came up with an agreement to allow scallops with a growth ring of 2.5 inches to be harvested.

“The enforcement guys have a hard time trying to get these guys who are taking illegal scallops,” Perkins said.

“It’s so frustrating when we’re so used to taking what we know to be adults and leaving what we knew to be seed. Now there’s such a gray area.”

Natural Resources Department Director Jeff Carlson attributed the dwindling number of scallops to a decline in eelgrass, the underwater plant scallops cling to, to avoid being eaten by predators like crabs.

Carlson remembers seeing scallopers fish off 40th Pole Beach, where there used to be healthy eelgrass beds. Eelgrass used to fill the seafloor from Madaket Harbor to Eel Point, but now, he said, it is virtually nonexistent.

“That population of eelgrass (north of Dionis) has substantially declined in the last decade,” Perkins said. “It’s patchy at best now. It’s not as much a water-quality issue, but there’s been a lot of sediment mixed, and a lot of shoaling.”

Water quality plays a much larger role in Nantucket Harbor, he said, which is reflected in the number of fishing boats he typically sees on the water on a mild winter day.

This year, he would see no more than three boats on a good day. When the scallop yield is low as early as November, the desire to fish goes down with it, he said.

Perkins tested the waters in Nantucket Harbor a couple days this season. It was clouded with algae, he said. He worried that too much algae in the harbor would prevent eelgrass from growing back.

“It’s such a frustrating industry right now,” he said. “Until we deal with water quality, it’s not going to come back. We need to get really serious about water quality. There’s too much fertilizer going into the harbor.”

The Nantucket Land Council, in October, re-started a program to plant eelgrass in a sandy stretch of seafloor off Quaise as well.

Having healthy eelgrass will not prevent year-to-year fluctuations in the number of scallops, Carlson said. But he hoped it would help to increase the number of scallops overall.

“When we look at water quality and habitat health, we want to get to the point where, instead of steady decline, that population is leveling off and even increasing,” he said.

“Then, when you have these fluctuations, it’s not going down to 2,000 or 3,000 bushels. Hopefully you’re looking at 25,000 and 15,000 bushels.”

Are scalloping’s days numbered on Nantucket? - Cape Cod Times

January 22 at 6:18 AM

Tonight (Tuesday, January 22, 2019) the Barnstable Board of Health will resume discussion and hold a hearing regarding a proposed modification to the Interim Saltwater Estuary Protection Regulation to limit its applicability to the Craigville Beach Zoning District. Today's hearing begins at 3:00 PM in the Town Hall Hearing Room, 367 Main Street, Hyannis.

Cape Media News' Gabrielle Rosson reports on the proposed changes, including concerns some conservationists have regarding the impact to current wastewater protection standards.

View the meeting agenda here:…/UPDATED%20-%20BOARD%20OF%20HEA…

To see the video go here:

Cape Cod Times
By Carlos R. Munoz
Posted Jan 17, 2019 at 2:05 PM
Updated Jan 17, 2019 at 2:05 PM

Fla. red tide episode kills record number of sea turtles

A Florida red tide outbreak close to 16 months old has killed more sea turtles than any previous single red tide event on record, and manatee deaths are not far behind.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission attributed 589 sea turtles and 213 manatee deaths to this episode of red tide, which began in late 2017. It had killed 127 bottlenose dolphins as of Dec. 20, leading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare an unusual mortality event.

Combined manatee deaths from red tide, human actions, cold stress and other causes are 824, according to a preliminary FWC report. A previous die-off killed 803 manatees in 2013 during another red tide bloom.

Preliminary data from FWC showed that the 824 manatee deaths in 2018 from both red tide, sickness and human-related causes surpassed the previous record of 803 set during another red tide outbreak in 2013.

Because of the partial U.S. government shutdown, NOAA has not provided updates for dolphins on its UME website. Dolphin strandings spiked in August and November, but have begun to slow down as red tide shows signs of weakening along the Southwest Florida coast.

Few experienced the gruesome first-hand effects of red tide more than turtle patrol participants, who wore masks and scarves to check turtle crawls following hatching during nesting season, May through October.

Don MacAulay of Englewood said he felt the effects of the airborne toxins -- a nearly 150-mile by 20-mile wide bloom at its peak -- driving over the bridge to Manasota Key. His throat and eyes burned from the aerosolized red tide toxins carried miles by the sea spray.

The stench of the carnage hung on the summer humidity.

“We were wearing snorkel goggles and respirators to do the job,” said MacAulay, a volunteer since 2016. “It was just horrible. Everywhere you stepped, you couldn’t go down to the shoreline. It was lined all the way with dead fish. ... The bugs were worse.”

Turtle patrollers -- doctors, dentists, anglers, kayakers, teachers, outdoors people from all walks of life -- donned military-grade gas masks or wore scarves over their face on mile-long walks to check for fresh turtle crawls. Later on, they cleared a path through piles of rotting fish to make way for hatchlings racing to the sea.

“The turtles barrel through the dead fish and still nest,” MacAulay said. “We had to go each day regardless of the stench and the toxins in the air. We tried to protect ourselves the best we could. It’s kind of extreme when you’re walking down the beach like you’re in chemical gear in a lab somewhere.”

MacAulay and many others who signed on for the previously leisurely strolls to check nests -- before sunrise and before beachgoers or tides could erase evidence of the crawls -- didn’t quit the thankless job.

“We protect every single nest on the beach from predators and whatever,” MacAulay said. “If we miss a day, it’s pretty bad. Even during hurricanes people try to go out before it gets bad.”

In September, an exasperated MacAulay posted a photo of a deceased dolphin on Facebook. Its jawbone was exposed and it appeared to have been dead for a while.

“Red tide is wiping everything out,” MacAulay told the Herald-Tribune after the discovery.

Fellow Manasota Key patroller Emily Rizzo, whose asthma makes her more prone to red tide sickness -- the itchy throat, watery eyes and coughing -- continued her duty walking a half-mile stretch despite the symptoms.

“I love sea turtles; I feel an obligation,” said Rizzo, who lives in Venice. “Frankly, if I could have found someone to take my place, I’d be happy to let them do it, but we are short of volunteers. It was tough, but I thought I had to do it.”

The turtle hatchlings needed the support. Coyotes have become very active on Manasota Key in the past few years, according to Rizzo.

“We were very, very worried about our babies,” she said.

Suzi Fox, the director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring, said 2018 was a highly successful nesting season on Anna Maria Island thanks to about 89 walkers. They reported that an estimated 35,000 hatchlings came from 534 nests on the island.

She suspects there could be a dip in nesting next year after several record seasons.

“People don’t come to Anna Maria Island to visit a high-rise,” Fox said. “They come for the wildlife. These people are dedicated to wrapping their arms around the wildlife and protecting it.”

It could be decades before the impact of red tide on the hatchlings is known. Sea turtles take about 20 to 30 years after hatching to reach sexual maturity and mate, according to NOAA.

The data patrollers provided to local and state groups will be vital to studying the long-term impact of red tide on the area’s endangered sea turtles.

“The sea turtle patrol were some of our biggest help during this,” said Gretchen Lovewell, strandings investigations program manager at Mote Marine Laboratory. “They were reporting animals to us every morning, often times collecting them in one area so we could one-stop shop. It was hard enough to pop over the dune and breathe again. They were breathing it in and coughing.

“The death and destruction was bad, but they helped get them out of the environment quicker.”

Mote performed more than 200 necropsies on sea turtles this summer.

The widespread effect of this year’s red tide outbreak made it more difficult to recover and treat marine animals, according to FWC veterinarian Martine DeWitt, who said the 2013 bloom that killed 277 manatees was more localized near Charlotte County.

DeWitt said the recent red tide took more coordination among local and state agencies and that manatees with suspected red tide toxicity are still being collected.

“The toxin can persist in the environment and still be in the sea grass,” she said. “It’s not over yet.”

So far, Manatee County has picked up 316 tons of dead fish from waterways -- consuming 892.5 regular hours and 253.24 overtime hours. Cleanup has cost the county $210,543, the bulk of the costs incurred by contracting with a vendor ($154,482) to clear residential canals during the peak of the bloom.

Sarasota County removed 251 tons of red-tide related fish and marine debris from county-managed properties at a cost of $231,991.57. About 4 additional tons of debris removed from the city of Sarasota were not included in the county cost.

Red tide-related marine animal deaths

Sea turtles

    • Current: 589
    • 2005-2006: 568


    • Current: 213*
    • 2013: 277

*Number could rise pending further tissue testing.


    • Current: 129
    • 2005-2006: 190


Sources: NOAA, FWC.

Fla. red tide episode kills record number of sea turtles - Cape Cod Times

Cape Cod Times
Posted Jan 4, 2019 at 7:36 PM
Updated Jan 5, 2019 at 7:31 AM

Barnstable: Wastewater plan in the works

Town responds to critics with overview of efforts, timeline for final draft.

HYANNIS — The town of Barnstable has a message for critics who recently faulted it for not having a comprehensive wastewater management plan: We have been working on solutions for years and the plan is forthcoming.

During a nearly two-hour, 50-slide presentation and discussion at the Barnstable Town Council meeting Thursday, Daniel Santos, director of the Department of Public Works, provided a detailed overview of wastewater management efforts undertaken in the Cape’s largest town since 2015.

“We are committed to the estuary issues,” said newly elected Town Council President James Crocker. “There is no other town on the peninsula that is as forward-thinking on this than the town of Barnstable.”

Crocker said it was important to show townspeople how many professionals experienced in the subject are employed by the town — several attended the meeting — and how much time has been spent on wastewater management issues.

Controversy about the lack of an approved wastewater management plan emerged in the fall when the Barnstable Board of Health was asked to consider an amendment to modify or eliminate interim regulations to restrict nitrogen flow into saltwater estuaries.

The regulations, which affect most of the town south of Route 6, were put in place 10 years ago to restrict the nitrogen flow by limiting development in certain areas. They were meant to be temporary until the town developed and adopted a comprehensive plan.

Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells has said he advocates easing the interim regulations for a 500-foot buffer along Route 28 through town to allow for housing development opportunities.

The Board of Health has continued a hearing on the matter until Jan. 22.

The lack of a plan opened the town up to criticism from some community leaders and environmental groups, including a threat of a lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation if any of the regulations were lifted. A 2011 lawsuit by the foundation was the impetus for the mandated development of the Cape’s Section 208 regional water-quality management plan.

A final draft of the Barnstable plan will be submitted to the Town Council in the spring, and plans will be presented to the Cape Cod Commission and state Department of Environmental Protection in the summer and fall, respectively, according to a timeline included in Santos’ presentation.

The plan, designed to be flexible to accommodate changing environments, emerging contaminants of concern and new technologies, is being developed to encompass three 20-year phases, Santos said.

Santos highlighted many traditional and nontraditional projects already underway in town, including expansion of the Attucks Lane pump station; designs for sewer system expansion in the areas of Long Pond and Phinney’s Lane; Cotuit Bay Inlet and Mill Pond dredging; aquaculture in Warren’s Cove; cranberry bog conversions in Marstons Mills; alternative septic system installations; placement of permeable reactive barriers; and stormwater treatment activities.

“I think we were able to provide the Town Council a very detailed, comprehensive look at what our wastewater planning activities have been,” Santos said. “It allowed them to come up to speed on issues and start conversations on funding and implementation.”

Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, praised the town for preparing to submit a plan, but noted it is not finished yet.

“They don’t have a county- or state-approved plan,” he said.

Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, called the presentation “very solid” and a step in the right direction, but thought the 60-year duration for carrying out solutions was too long.

“Planning is one thing, but action is another,” Crocker said. “We need to start instituting sooner rather than later.”

At its next meeting Jan. 17, the council will hold public hearings to appropriate $250,000 for a feasibility study to evaluate using the wastewater treatment facility at Joint Base Cape Cod for future sewer expansion for western areas of town and $250,000 to retain a consultant to begin conceptual planning for sewer expansion into the village of Cotuit.

“I think we have a professional management team at the DPW that we should be proud of,” Town Councilor Jennifer Cullum said. “Through better engagement with the community and civic associations, hopefully we can get the word out that significant progress is being made (on the wastewater management plan) and we are planning for the future.”

Cape Cod Times - Barnstable: Wastewater plan in the works

Cape Cod Times
Posted Jan 2, 2019 at 8:09 PM
Updated Jan 3, 2019 at 6:28 AM

Easing of Barnstable’s nitrogen rules could prompt lawsuit

Conservation group may press for mandates if town revises water quality plan.

HYANNIS — If the Barnstable Board of Health rescinds any of the town’s decade-old interim regulations to restrict nitrogen flow into saltwater estuaries later this month, it could trigger a federal lawsuit from the Conservation Law Foundation.

“It was a real shock to me,” Christopher Kilian, the foundation’s vice president of strategic litigation, said of efforts underway to modify the interim regulations.

A foundation lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 was the force behind mandated creation of the Cape’s Section 208 regional water-quality management plan.

“If we need to go back to federal court to point out flaws in the 208 plan and use examples of towns dropping the ball to underscore need for a federal program, we will,” Kilian said.

The interim regulations, which affect most of the town south of Route 6, were put in place 10 years ago to restrict nitrogen flow into estuaries by limiting development in certain areas. They were put in place temporarily until the town developed and adopted a comprehensive plan to address nitrogen reduction in its estuary systems.

A proposed amendment to rescind the regulations that would exclude the Craigville Beach Zoning District — designated a District of Critical Planning Concern by the Cape Cod Commission — was introduced in the fall.

“I have to admit the notion that Barnstable, of all towns, would take a giant step backward now wasn’t really in our calculus,” Kilian said. “This would just add additional concern and impetus for us to press harder for state and federal mandated programs. We have not seen consistent resolve or effective action from towns on the Cape.”

Hesitancy by the state and the Cape Cod Commission to wade into local politics to ensure the Section 208 plan is carried out has led to inaction by some Cape towns, according to Kilian.

More than 150 people attended a hearing in late November when the Board of Health took up the proposed amendment, with many offering their views during a two-hour comment period.

Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells also addressed the board. He said the town had enacted many water resources management initiatives in the past decade, and he advocated easing the regulations for a 500-foot buffer along Route 28 in town to pursue housing development opportunities.

The hearing was continued to Jan. 22.

“I’ve been asking since December 2017 to revisit and discuss the regulations,” Ells told the Times. “We want to balance natural resource protection, economic development and housing with a focus along the Route 28 corridor.”

Local environmental organizations, including the Association to Preserve Cape Cod and the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, oppose the proposed amendment, contending the town still does not have a comprehensive plan — or funding to enforce one — that would be a catalyst for reconsidering the interim regulations.

Ells is scheduled to present an update on the town’s wastewater management plan at the Barnstable Town Council meeting Thursday night, according to a published agenda.

“This is emblematic and an example of the challenge on the Cape now,” Kilian said. “Badly degraded water quality is well-documented, and we know the sources. In the meantime, there’s a pressure to continue building stuff and not use updated systems to keep nitrogen out of the bays.”

Kilian also warned that the quality of the Cape’s waterways is fundamental to property values and the region’s economy and towns should not contribute to “killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”

Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said Barnstable was between a “proverbial rock and a hard place” and saw both sides of the issue.

“Our organization works very closely with Barnstable as a gateway city,” she said. “Economic development is important to them for housing and a commercial tax base, but without proper wastewater infrastructure, economic development capacity is stymied.”

The chamber will continue to work with Barnstable to help get wastewater projects initiated and funded, according to Northcross.

“I’m sure they don’t want to invite a lawsuit, but I know they have really been working to balance economic development and water protection,” said Northcross, adding that perhaps projects could be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, especially if a developer wanted to build its own small wastewater treatment infrastructure. “It’s a delicate stance.”

Ells said he was not aware of a looming lawsuit if the town modified or lifted some or all of its interim estuary protection regulations.

“He (Kilian) has not spoken to my office at all,” Ells said. “This is the first I’ve heard about it. He’s an attorney, so I’d refer him to our legal counsel.”

Cape Cod Times - Easing of Barnstable’s nitrogen rules could prompt lawsuit

2018 Articles

The Barnstable Patriot
Posted Nov 29, 2018 at 5:20 PM
Updated Nov 30, 2018 at 11:59 AM

Health Board halts move to lift sewering cap

[Photo By: Bronwen Howells Walsh]

Town Manager Mark Ells has said it before, and he’ll say it again: Barnstable is one of the state’s most complex and environmentally sensitive communities.“We stand on top of the water we drink,” Ells told a packed Barnstable Board of Health meeting on Nov. 27. “Public water supply and water resource protection are a priority. Resource protection is a key part of everything that we do.”In a 45-minute presentation that opened the three-hour hearing, Ells said his administration is trying to balance housing demand, drive economic development, and maintain resource protection while expanding the the Highway Business District along Route 28 in Centerville and Hyannis. The zoning changes were introduced earlier this month by James Crocker Jr., council vice president and chairman of the town’s Zoning and Permitting Regulatory Committee.“We don’t have blinders on,” Ells said. “We need to look at this balance, we need to understand this balance. It isn’t just sewering. As town manager, l will not be successful unless I look at every single option.”

Residents weighed in on a proposal to modify the town’s Saltwater Estuary Protection Zone, an interim regulation that’s been in place for a decade. The modification was introduced as part of the Route 28 highway business district expansion. Ultimately, the health board put the debate on hold until January.

Chairman Paul Canniff opened Tuesday’s hearing by quoting his predecessor, Wayne Miller, candidly stating that Barnstable’s watersheds and estuaries are nitrogen-impaired. Lifting the interim regulation, Miller said, would result in septic systems that far exceed the maximum nitrogen flow.

“Nutrient load is introduced primarily by us – urine,” Ells explained. “That’s really what we’re looking to manage here. It’s all about balance.”

Ells advocated easing the estuary protection regulations along a 500-foot buffer of Route 28. He said doing so would encourage redevelopment of the aging commercial corridor and, perhaps, allow housing construction at the former Marstons Mills Elementary School.

“On the nontraditional side, we’ve been doing a lot” to implement alternative water treatment technologies, Ells said.

Alternative water treatment efforts are a long-term project, noted health board member Tom Lee, who recommended against relaxing the interim regulations before examining water quality data at each watershed.

“We cannot just say ’500 feet’ across the board,” Lee said. “That’s my opinion as an engineer.”

Health board member Don Guadagnoli concurred with Lee, saying that the interim regulations should be modified slowly and thoughtfully, and affordable housing should be considered on a case-by-case-basis.

Marcel Poyant, owner of Centerville Shopping Center on Route 28, urged the board to provide commercial developers with some type of regulatory relief; otherwise, redevelopment efforts along the aging commercial corridor are “dead in the water.”

It’s difficult enough to keep commercial property occupied, echoed Cliff Carroll, a mortgage banker and real estate developer and Housing Assistance Corp. board member. “The need for affordable housing here has exploded. We really do need to address that. If we study, study, study, study, we’re going to be here 10 years from now having this conversation.”

Zenas Crocker, executive director of Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, said BCWA and its predecessor, Three Bays, have been studying the region’s water quality for more the 20 years and continues to do so.

“We’re working very, very hard, hand in hand, with the town to bring these alternatives to bear,” Crocker said. “We don’t know exactly where and how the changes are going to help. Dilution alone is not going to solve the long-term problem. We think we can do that over time. Let’s not rush to lift something like this. It does protect us.”

Councilors Jessica Rapp Grassetti and Britt Beedenbender also testified against lifting the saltwater estuary regulations and called for a review process, water quality monitoring, and benchmarks for moving forward.

“This is a short-signted attempt to address a problem with the wrong solution,” Beedenbender said. “Lifting of this regulation would have far-reaching, negative effects. The health of our waters directly affects the health of the community.”

Likewise, Lindsey Counsell, who chairs Barnstable Preservation Committee, urged continual water quality monitoring.

“You really need to get into the parcel level to be able to prove you’re making a difference,” Counsell said. “Help the town implement a monitoring you can then begin to chart the progress,” he urged the board of health.

Don Keeran, assistant director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, said his organization and BCWA share the same mantra: No net increase in nitrogen load.

“That’s our mantra, and we hope that’s the philosophy of the board of health going forward here. It’s not just a town issue. It does have those ramifications beyond town borders” for shared estuaries in Mashpee, Sandwich, and Yarmouth as well.

“We would caution and urge the board to be very careful of any potential modifications of the regulation,” Keeran said. “Any lifting of the ban we would be opposed to and we would urge the board of health to not go that route.”

The public hearing is scheduled to continue on Tuesday, Jan. 22. The health board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

The Barnstable Patriot - Health Board halts move to lift sewering cap

Cape Cod Times
Posted Nov 27, 2018 at 8:52 PM
Updated Nov 27, 2018 at 8:55 PM

Barnstable Health Board delays action to modify water-quality regs

HYANNIS — The Barnstable Board of Health will not rescind the decade-old interim development regulations established to restrict nitrogen flow into the town’s estuaries — at least not this year.

The board voted unanimously on Tuesday afternoon to continue its public hearing on the matter — which has generated major community interest in recent weeks — until Jan. 22.

A standing room-only crowd of nearly 150 people attended the late-afternoon meeting at Barnstable Town Hall, during which the board heard public comments for more than two hours.

“This is more (people) than we’ve had in the last five years combined,” said Barnstable Board of Health Chairman Dr. Paul Canniff, who added he had received more than 40 letters and emails in advance of the meeting.

When it reconvenes after the New Year, the board could narrow its discussion to possibly modifying regulations for small areas of the Interim Saltwater Estuary Protection Zone, which encompasses most of the town south of Route 6, as opposed to a wholesale retraction. The regulations, adopted in 2009, were intended to be temporary and only in effect until the town adopted and implemented a comprehensive plan to address nitrogen reduction required in its estuary systems.

The Craigville Beach Zoning District, which is under the jurisdiction of the Cape Cod Commission, would not be included in any amendment to modify the zone.

Town Manager Mark Ells opened the meeting with a 45-minute presentation, explaining that it was never his intent to call for a full recision of the regulations.

Ells stressed that the town has implemented many water resources management initiatives during the past 10 years — including sewer expansion, acquisition of open space, dredging and establishment of water management improvement funds — but the town needs to balance those efforts with housing development and economic growth.

“I hear over and over again that we are not doing anything and that’s not accurate,” he said. “The challenge is balance. We are trying to protect the (town’s) quality of life and unique character, but need to have economic growth and housing for all.”

He specifically advocated for easing the interim estuary protection regulations for a 500-foot buffer along Route 28 through town to allow for housing development opportunities, including the site of the former Marstons Mills Elementary School.

“This wasn’t brought forth correctly,” said Ells about the proposed amendment to lift the regulations.

Board member Dr. Donald Guadagnoli suggested getting rid of the interim regulations “would not be a good idea at this point” but carefully modifying them on a case-by-case basis could be appropriate.

Environmental groups, including the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, oppose the proposed amendment.

Zenas Crocker, executive director of the coalition, and Don Keeran, assistant director of the association, both told the board they were adamant about having no net increases of nitrogen in the town’s waterways.

“What’s the rush?” said Crocker about the proposed amendment, suggesting any modifications should move forward in a thoughtful and transparent manner. “It’s a blunt instrument, but it does protect us.”

Town Councilors Jessica Rapp Grassetti and Britt Beedenbender both addressed the board, expressing concern that the town was considering lifting the regulations without having a long-term integrated plan that takes into consideration growth in the next 10 years.

“I don’t want to lift it at all,” said Rapp Grassetti. “I’d rather saddle my children and grandchildren with debt to fix the problem, rather than dirty water.”

She also offered to work with the Board of Health to contribute to finalizing a comprehensive water quality management plan, complete with implementation and financial strategies.

Perhaps the most memorable testimony at the meeting came from Marcel Poyant, owner of the Centerville Shopping Center. Poyant was recently unable to replace a 35-year barbershop tenant with another barber because the shop is located within the estuary protection overlay district.

“Give us some type of relief,” he said. “We’re dead in the water when it has anything to do with septic systems.”

Cape Cod Times - Barnstable Health Board delays action to modify water-quality regs

The Barnstable Patriot
Posted Nov 22, 2018 at 9:17 AM
Updated Nov 24, 2018 at 6:52 AM

‘The Cape is not a one-size-fits-all approach to planning’

In a joint public hearing Nov. 15, the Barnstable Town Council and Planning Board voted unanimously to ask the Cape Cod Commission to raise the square footage on developments of regional impact.

Translation: The town, rather than the Commission, would be in charge of regulating large developments within newly designated “Chapter H” areas along Route 132 and in Independence Park.

Elizabeth Jenkins, Barnstable Planning and Development director, said increasing the DRI thresholds would provide greater regulatory flexibility to businesses.

“We’re generally putting a regulatory framework in place that supports investment and reinvestment,” Jenkins said. “This promotes the kind of sustainable growth and investment that we want to see here in Barnstable. It shows our businesses that we are committed to economic development.”

The application would increase the DRI thresholds from 10,000 square feet for commercial/industrial land uses to 20,000 square feet in economic centers, like Route 132, and to 40,000 square feet in industrial service and trade areas, like Independence Park.

Beyond that, “any increase in gross square footage would trigger Cape Cod Commission review,” Jenkins said.

The revised regulations also are designed to guide growth away from protected resources, like the Cape’s ponds, bays, and estuaries.

Felicia Penn of Hyannis noted that the increase in industrial service and trade area threshold appeared to include land adjacent to the airport rotary – an area the planning board has made a concerted effort to keep undeveloped because of its proximity to Barnstable Municipal Airport.

Jenkins noted that the town purchased the former Chili’s site, which is restricted and cannot be developed.

“This designation will not have any significant influence on this property,” Jenkins said. “Route 132 is a gateway into our community and Cape Cod. Traffic and overall visual character are still reviewed by the Cape Cod Commission.”

The Chapter H application will next be reviewed by the Commission and, ultimately, presented to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates for final approval.

Regional Policy Plan

Kristy Senatori, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission, briefed the council on the next iteration of the Commission’s Regional Policy Plan (RPP), which is updated every five years. Once the final draft of the RPP is approved by the Assembly of Delegates, it will serve to align regional and local planning efforts over the next five to 10 years.

The RPP is designed to balance the Cape’s natural, built, and community environments, Senatori said. New this year: The plan includes performance measures designed to closely monitor new growth and redevelopment.

“The RPP and the Chapter H application reinforce each other,” she said.

Much of the public feedback received to date on the RPP draft has focused on addressing climate change, Senatori said. In addition, commenters said the Commission should pay close attention to the Cape’s sub-regional differences.

“The Cape is not a one-size-fits-all approach to planning and regulation,” she said. “I think that’s absolutely key to this plan.”

Highway Business District

The council and planning board also opened a public hearing on two zoning amendments that would expand the Highway Business District along Route 28 in Centerville and Hyannis, and along West Main Street in Hyannis.

Those proposed zoning amendments are designed to encourage investment in Barnstable’s aging commercial corridors by easing the regulatory process. Building permits and site plan reviews would still be required, but developers no longer would have to appear before the Barnstable Zoning Board of Appeals for a special permit.

Jenkins said the highway business district as it exists today was first established in 1988, with just two permitted land uses: professional (non-medical) offices and banks without a drive-through. The rewrite proposes 28 prospective land uses; reduces minimum set-back requirements for commercial properties; and increases the maximum height to three stories.

“The zoning is not adequately serving the businesses that are located there today, nor future businesses,” Jenkins told the council. The amendments are a way to support housing growth “in a form and density that would support a year-round workforce. We do have a housing crisis here on Cape Cod.”

Eliminating special permits would increase the amount of investment in these areas, said Cliff Carroll, a mortgage banker and real estate developer who serves on the Housing Assistance Corporation board.

“It’s difficult to repurpose a building that goes vacant,” Carroll said. “Lots of commercial areas are sitting vacant. This type of zoning change is going in the right direction.”

The zoning changes are recommended by the town’s Zoning and Permitting Regulatory Committee chaired by James Crocker Jr., council vice president. Because Crocker’s own commercial properties bookend the proposed zoning expansion in Centerville, he recused himself from the proceedings.

Fred Chirigotis, a former town council president who now serves as Barnstable’s Cape Cod Commission representative, said the proposed zoning changes along Route 28 in Centerville encroach upon residential neighborhoods west of Old Stage Road.

“I agree those [commercial] properties need to be developed, but two lanes of traffic in both directions haven’t helped anybody but the lawyers,” Chirigotis said. “The number of accidents on Route 28 at Bell Tower Mall – I don’t have to tell you about that.

“What is the plan?” Chirigotis asked. “Let’s have a plan for the whole Route 28 corridor. There are different sections, whole different villages. We need to look at each section of that road and make a comprehensive plan that works.”

Susan Sweet of Hyannis said she opposes expanding the highway business district. She said her home near Lambert’s is an undeveloped parcel that’s been in her family long before West Main Street existed.

“I will never sell it. It will never be developed in my lifetime. It’s open space,” Sweet testified.

At various times in her testimony, Penn called the proposed zoning amendments “not very progressive,” “insufficient,” “totally inadequate,” and “not appropriate.”

“To put those other uses at those four corners at Strawberry Hill Road, that’s terrible planning,” she said.

Likewise, Susan Horback of Centerville asked, “Where is our wastewater planning in relation to this?” Barnstable Board of Health is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 3 p.m. in relation to that question.

“Many of these uses seem a little too intense for the area...which is primarily residential,” Horback said. “Let’s not allow uses ‘by right’ and expand the area if they’re really going to cost us later.”

Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, also testified against the zoning amendments.

“This small area...seems to be a few development parcels rather than solving for the whole problem that the town is facing,” Crocker said. “Bring it to the taxpayers. They’re counting on every one of you here to solve these issues. Let’s make it better. Let’s get sustainable development.”

The council voted to approve a motion by Britt Beedenbender that abutters be notified of the potential zoning changes, “so that people are aware and can engage in this process.”

The public hearing on the matter remains open, and the town council and planning board will again meet in joint session on Thursday, Dec. 6, at Barnstable Town Hall, 7 p.m.

The Barnstable Patriot - ‘The Cape is not a one-size-fits-all approach to planning’

Cape Cod Times

Barnstable Board of Health to consider lifting nutrient restrictions

HYANNIS — The Barnstable Board of Health has a full — and controversial — post-holiday agenda when it meets on Tuesday.

The board will hold a public hearing on lifting interim regulations implemented 10 years ago to protect the town’s waterways. The regulations were put into place to restrict nitrogen flow into estuaries by limiting development in certain areas.

The regulations were intended to be temporary and only in effect until the town adopted and implemented a comprehensive plan to meet requirements to reduce nitrogen.

The proposed amendment to eliminate the regulations would affect most of the town south of Route 6, excluding the Craigville Beach Zoning District, which falls within an area regulated under a district of critical planning concern set up through the Cape Cod Commission.

The rationale behind the proposed amendment, according to a legal notice issued by the town, is that the regulations were only intended to be temporary and the town has engaged in initiatives to address nitrogen reduction in estuary systems, adhering to state Department of Environmental Protection total maximum daily load requirements.

The amendment, along with a public hearing, had initially been on the board’s Oct. 23 meeting agenda, but was withdrawn when a discrepancy emerged over whether the board had even requested — or voted — to have it placed on the agenda.

Environmental groups, including the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, oppose the proposed amendment and have submitted letters to the board and town leaders.

“The net effect of the proposed action will be to worsen existing degraded estuaries throughout the town of Barnstable as well as those shared with Mashpee, Sandwich and Yarmouth,” association Executive Director Andrew Gottlieb wrote.

Gottlieb also disagrees with the reason for the amendment, contending Barnstable lacks a comprehensive plan — along with financing or public and political support — to restore the estuaries.

Barnstable Town Council Vice President James Crocker says the amendment proposal emerged from a housing study that concluded the interim saltwater estuary protection zones are hindering residential development along Route 28, where infrastructure exists for it.

“A lot of improvements have been made (since 2008),” he said. “The town has spent money for runoff solutions, purchasing property to take out of development, and capital improvements in the sewer plan to take nutrients out of the estuaries. The town is fully committed to enhancing and improving the estuaries and maintaining high quality drinking water.”

Not so fast, argues Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition.

“BCWC understands the need for economic growth, and for more housing in the town,” he wrote. “We agree that a ‘temporary’ regulation lasting almost 10 years deserves clarification and updating. Shouldn’t there be an opportunity for open discussion and the airing of all views, new information, prospective alternatives and so forth? Perhaps that is the goal, but if it is, that too is opaque.”

A public hearing on further limitations on smoking in town is also scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting.

A proposed amendment to the town’s smoking regulations would expand the definition of products containing tobacco or nicotine to include e-cigarettes, expand the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21, and ban smoking at municipal-owned parks, playgrounds, beaches and athletic fields, and at transportation waiting areas.

Cape Cod Times - Barnstable Board of Health to consider lifting nutrient restrictions

The Barnstable Patriot

Zoning for the future: ‘We’re going to get a lot louder,’ says Barnstable Clean Water Assoc.

Barnstable Town Council was poised to vote Nov. 15 on expanding the highway business district on Route 28 in Centerville and Hyannis, and along West Main Street in Hyannis.

Drafted by Barnstable’s Zoning and Regulatory Committee, the proposed zoning amendments are designed to encourage investment in Barnstable’s aging commercial corridors, help meet housing demands, promote increased property values, and make the areas more pedestrian-friendly.

The zoning amendments would increase the types of businesses that could operate in the highway business districts, raise the maximum building height from 30 to 38 feet (or three stories), reduce commercial setback requirements, and ease the regulatory process for multi-use development in those areas.

The Zoning and Regulatory Committee chaired by Jim Crocker, vice president of the council, who owns land along Route 28; however, the proposal clearly states that the changes are unanimously supported by all committee members, including Councilors Crocker, Jessica Rapp Grassetti, Matthew Levesque, Paul Neary, and member-at-large Hank Farnham. At the full council’s Nov. 1 hearing, Crocker said he would recuse himself from the final vote.

The proposal also pledges “to protect adjacent residential land and maintain Barnstable’s unique character and exceptional quality of life.” Approval of the highway business district zoning changes requires a 2/3 majority vote of the council and planning board. Public comment was continued until Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m., and the town will notify residential abutters.

Meanwhile, Barnstable Clean Water Association (BCWA) is now monitoring for marine invasive species at seven locations in Barnstable. The cover of the organization’s fall newsletter shows a close-up of angry-orange algae growing in Barnstable Harbor.

BCWA said two new Hyannis Harbor sites also contain numerous invasive species not seen at other sites until this year. The most commonly observed species at all seven sites were the Star Tunicate (Botryllus schlosseri) and the Sheath Tunicate (Botrylloides violaceus). Both tunicates were found growing on docks, lines, buoys and boat hulls.

At the same time, BCWA’s quarterly data demonstrates decreasing dissolved oxygen levels – an indicator of declining water quality – in Prince Cove, likely caused by high levels of nitrogen.

“We’re going to get a lot louder,” Zenas Crocker said in a Nov. 12 interview, his office working through Veterans Day.

“I’m not against sustainable development or sewering, but the untested tools are the missing link,” Crocker said. “Mill Pond would be Barnstable’s first pond restoration. Stormwater treatment, wetlands restoration, dredging – these are all basically ideas that have not been tried on any scale.”

Crocker said he planned to testify at the Nov. 15 joint hearing, as well as the next Barnstable Board of Health meeting. Scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27, the health board meeting will consider a proposal to modify the town’s regulations protecting salt water estuaries, a change Zee Crocker said is tantamount to sanctioning unmitigated development.

“We (BCWA) cannot support this,” Crocker said. “Any proposed change should be part of our comprehensive water management plan—when implemented, not just planned. We need to have sensible, sustainable development, but why lift the (salt water estuary) regulations for the entire town?”

Visit for updates on both hearings.

The Barnstable Patriot - Zoning for the future: ‘We’re going to get a lot louder,’ says Barnstable Clean Water Assoc.

Cape Cod Times

Dredging of entrance to Cotuit Bay begins

COTUIT — Dredging of the Cotuit Bay entrance channel and the western tip of Sampson’s Island will begin this week.

This phase of the project will widen the channel by about 130 feet, and the dredged material will be used for beach nourishment on the southern side of the eastern end of the island —Dead Neck Beach — and for a habitat enhancement area, according to a statement from the Barnstable Department of Public Works.

The department will conduct the dredging in collaboration with Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, the Massachusetts Audubon Society and Barnstable County.

Depending on weather, dredging operations will be ongoing from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays until Jan. 15, the projected completion date of this phase of the project.

Boaters are asked to use caution while navigating the waters around the dredging operation.

Cape Cod Times - Dredging of entrance to Cotuit Bay begins

The Barnstable Patriot
Posted Oct 29, 2018 at 2:00 AM

APCC invests $1.2M in Three Bays stormwater management

[Photo by: Alan Belanich]

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) is partnering with the town of Barnstable Department of Public Works (DPW), the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, the Horsley Witten Group and the Barnstable Land Trust on a five-year local, state and federally funded project to improve water quality in the Three Bays watershed through better stormwater management.

This multi-phase project got under way in 2016 with a $472,574 grant from the U.S. EPA’s Southeast New England Program (SNEP). That initial effort has now expanded to a $1.2 million project, including $119,002 awarded to the town from two Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management Coastal Pollutant Remediation grants; an additional $350,000 in federal funding awarded to APCC from the SNEP Watershed Grants program managed through Restore America’s Estuaries; and a combined $301,045 of in-kind labor and contributions from the project partners.

“This new funding will support Phase II of this project effectively doubling the scope and impact of this successful collaboration,” said April Wobst, APCC Restoration Coordination Center and Three Bays stormwater project manager, in an Oct. 23 statement.

The Three Bays watershed, like many coastal estuaries on Cape Cod, continues to suffer from the impacts of nutrient and bacteria contamination. High levels of nitrogen result in algal blooms and fish kills and bacteria contamination from pet and wildlife waste causes regular shellfish and beach closures. Stormwater runoff and fertilizers are two important contributors to this problem.

Dan Santos, Barnstable DPW director, said the DPW has been taking a multi-faceted approach to addressing water quality concerns across the town.

“Stormwater management is one piece of the puzzle and a key strategy for the Three Bays watershed,” Santos said. “The town has committed significant resources to this effort, including over $120,000 in-kind contributions for this project alone.”

The team completed a watershed assessment in early 2017 to identify sites where installation of green infrastructure stormwater systems could help address the problem. These low-impact designs, which incorporate the use of plants and soil, work to capture rain water and remove nitrogen, bacteria and other pollutants before they wash into the bays.

Treatment of runoff at these priority locations will help address poor water quality in the bays, benefitting the environment and the local economy, including fishing and shellfishing as well as property values.

The project is currently preparing to begin construction on two new stormwater treatment systems: the first to be located at Cordwood Landing; the second, adjacent to Prince Cove marina.

Horsley Witten Group, the stormwater engineering firm, has worked with the project team to complete assessment, design and permitting, and will be managing construction in collaboration with the town. The green infrastructure stormwater treatment systems installed will eliminate 70-85 percent of bacteria and 55 percent of nitrogen from runoff at these sites. In addition, the systems will reduce impervious surface, remove invasive plant species, and provide improved public access.

With the additional funding, the watershed assessment will be expanded. Design, permitting and construction of additional treatment systems is anticipated for completion by 2021.

The long-term goal is to improve water quality in the bays supporting ecological restoration, as well as commercial and recreational uses. Success will be measured by reduction in pollutants (nitrogen and bacteria in particular), algal blooms, fish kills, beach and shellfish closures as well as improvement to habitat for fish, shellfish and other wildlife.

For more information, contact April Wobst at APCC at 508-619-3185 ext. 6 or Dale Saad at DPW at 508-790-6400.

The Barnstable Patriot - APCC invests $1.2M in Three Bays stormwater management

The Barnstable Patriot

Developing a roadmap: Barnstable, EPA officials fast-track nitrogen removal efforts

A who’s who of local, regional, and national environmental officials dedicated to restoring clean water on Cape Cod met Oct. 29 in Woods Hole about how to speed up the region’s groundwater nitrogen removal efforts.

The “problem formulation workshop” is spearheaded jointly by Zenas Crocker, executive director of Barnstable Clean Water Association (BCWA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Transitional Science Program, which helps local stakeholders combat nitrogen problems.

Crocker said the Cape Cod Commission’s 208 Plan is tantamount to a test plan, and the missing links are untested tools. The workshop represents an opportunity to develop a research roadmap, ensuring that sustainable, alternative treatments are implemented along with traditional “pipes and pumps” sewering.

“BCWC understands the need for economic growth, and for more housing in the town,” Crocker recently wrote Eric Steinhilber, president of Barnstable Town Council. “Shouldn’t there be an opportunity for open discussion and the airing of all views, new information, (and) prospective alternatives?”

On Oct. 23, Crocker testified against a proposal that Steinhilber introduced to the Barnstable Board of Health. The proposal call for repealing the town’s interim Saltwater Estuary Regulations to allow more development along the Route 28 corridor in Centerville.

Crocker maintains that any proposed regulatory changes should be part of Barnstable’s Comprehensive Water Management Plan.

“We need to be diligent and vigilant,” Crocker said in an Oct. 26 interview. “We need to have sensible, sustainable development.”

Attending the Oct. 29 workshop are members of EPA Region 1, WHOI, MBL, Mass DEP, Cape Cod Commission, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the Nature Conservancy, and UMass. Florida, whose water conditions on the Gulf Coast parallel those of the Cape, sent a contingency from the state’s Bureau of Environmental Health and Division of Disease Control and Protection. Barnstable participants include Mark Ells, town manager; Dan Santos and Rob Stein, DPW director and assistant director; Thomas Mckean, health director, and Tom Lee, board of health.

Crocker said he envisioned the group splitting into teams and deploying site-specific, pilot programs – including wetland restoration, storm water management, shellfish aquaculture, and other alternative treatments – in conjunction with municipal improvements to Barnstsable’s 100-year-old sewer system.

On areas like golf courses, Crocker said, “fertigation wells” could be used to recapture nitrogen-enriched groundwater and re-apply it for irrigation and fertilization. In other cases, “permeable reactive barriers” would create underground filtration walls to treat contaminated groundwater as it flows through.

“These are all basically ideas that have not been tried on any scale,” Crocker said. For instance, “Mill Pond would be Barnstable’s first pond restoration.”

Three Bays – which encompasses embayments, rivers, ponds, and lakes in Cotuit, Marstons Mills, Osterville, and Sandwich – is the third worst-polluted of the Cape’s 53 watersheds, according to the Cape Cod Commission. Due to its geological features and prohibitive costs, sewering is not an option for the watershed; rather, alternative treatments hold promise.

The Centerville River system also exceeds its critical threshold for nitrogen, resulting in impaired water quality. Septic systems account for 87 percent of excess nitrogen; fertilizer, 6 percent, and stormwater runoff, 7 percent.

The Town of Barnstable and the Cape Cod Commission are working together to develop plans for reducing nitrogen loading to estuaries using these and other non-traditional technologies. More about the results of today’s workshop in the Patriot’s Nov. 2 print edition.

The Barnstable Patriot - Developing a roadmap: Barnstable, EPA officials fast-track nitrogen removal efforts

The Barnstable Patriot

Barnstable Board of Health, Town Council leadership at odds over sewering, development

Irresponsible, premature, ill-advised, and inappropriate.

Those were some of the fiery reactions to a proposal to limit sewer capacity in town at the expense of interim regulations designed to protect the town’s saltwater estuaries.

“This request did not come from the Board of Health,” Chairman Paul Canniff said at the Barnstable Board of Health’s Oct. 23 meeting.

Rather, Canniff said he received a terse call from Town Council President Eric Steinhilber directing him to call a public hearing. Specifically, Canniff said he was told to “effectively remove nitrogen loading regulations” apart from the Craigville Beach Zoning District.

Having seen a legal notice about the hearing, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod wrote to Canniff requesting that the health board take no further action.

Adopted in 2008, the interim regulations prohibit the construction of individual sewage disposal systems within Barnstable’s watersheds that have excessive nitrogen levels. Steinhilber asked the health board to modify the regulation by limiting its applicability to the Craigville Beach Zoning District.

“APCC strongly recommends shelving this (amendment) until a comprehensive wastewater management plan can be adopted,” Canniff said. “The main purpose of this regulation is protection of our groundwater, which provides us with our drinking water. To get rid of regulations that protect the groundwater is ill-advised. The removal would allow a lot more development.”

Councilor Jessica Rapp-Grassetti called the proposal premature and wholly inappropriate.

“Nothing appropriate has been implemented to reduce nitrogen,” she said. “The reality is very little has been implemented, and I urge the board to stay on the regulation. We should talk a lot less about this issue and do a lot more.”

But board member John Norman and James Crocker, the vice president of town council, disagreed.

“This interim regulation has handcuffed a lot of (new development) that we wanted to do,” Norman said. “The town manager (Mark Ells) has made it clear: there are things we need to do going forward that this regulation is hindering.”

Moreover, the quality of drinking water throughout town is above-standard, Norman added.

“I fail to see the public health issue that’s being affected by our regulating sewering systems,” he said. “The Town of Barnstable has $16 million in the bank as a funding mechanism (for new sewering). It’s on the town leadership, not the board of health.

“When you hinder a community to building one- and two-bedroom housing, our children can’t afford to live here on the Cape,” he added. “It’s time to sunset and move forward.”

Councilor Crocker concurred with Norman, saying, that everyone present has the same goal: protecting Barnstable’s water supply.

“The issue is how to move forward,” Crocker said. “What I hope we’re here to discuss today is who should take the lead. The lead, I believe, belongs with the council, town manager, and staff. Who’s funding the testing? The council is.”

However, Zenas Crocker, executive director of Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, said a temporary regulation lasting over 10 years deserved more discussion.

“Eric called the regulations ‘somewhat arbitrary, blanket restrictions. They unnecessarily hinder other necessary priorities, such as housing,’ ” Zenas Crocker said, reading into the record correspondence between him and Steinhilber. “We (BCWA) cannot support this. Any proposed change should be part of our comprehensive water management plan—when implemented, not just planned. Our goal is to remove nitrogen and restore drinking water to the high quality that the community demands and expects.”

Board of Health Member Tom Lee noted that alternate technologies proposed to treat wastewater in Barnstable remain in pilot testing mode, but that this was a good place to start the conversations about moving forward over the next three to five years.

At the recommendation of Barnstable Town Attorney Ruth Weil, the health board voted unanimously to withdraw the proposal from consideration without prejudice. The matter will be put on the agenda for the health board’s next meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 27, at 3 p.m.

The Barnstable Patriot - Barnstable Board of Health, Town Council leadership at odds over sewering, development

The Barnstable Patriot


MA Nature Conservancy,
Barnstable win funding

The Nature Conservancy’s Massachusetts chapter has been awarded funding from NatureVest’s 2018 Conservation Investment Accelerator Competition promoting environmental sustainability.

NatureVest is the conservation investing unit of The Nature Conservancy. Applications were received from 26 countries and covered sectors as varied as forestry, freshwater management, and coastal resilience.

The funding will support a feasibility study for piloting innovative, nature-based solutions for wastewater management across the Cape. In partnership with Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Town of Barnstable, the pilot aims to reverse chronic nitrogen pollution impacting Cape Cod’s coastal ecosystems and protect the vital Cape Cod Aquifer.

The Barnstable team also will work to facilitate private investment in these more innovative solutions—and increase the pace and scale of implementation.

“As a team, we’re exploring options to implement nature-based solutions that will help mitigate nutrient pollution in our waters,” reads a statement from Horsley Witten Group environmental consultants. “This pilot study will focus on the Three Bays Watershed. Some of the potential solutions include cranberry bog restoration, fertigation wells, stormwater treatment, aquaculture...and innovative wastewater treatment systems.”

BCWA wary of relaxing rules

The Barnstable Board of Health is scheduled to consider repealing and replacing interim saltwater estuary rules governing onsite sewage disposal in the Craigville Beach Zoning District on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 3 p.m. in the Barnstable Town Hall second-floor hearing room.

“Why do we want to relax rules now?” Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Association, asked in an Oct. 17 interview. “I’m all for sensible development, but the estuaries are getting worse. I’m not for changing regulations before we’ve done anything. I don’t see how I can possibly support it.”

To review the current regulation, visit

The Barnstable Patriot - Barnstable Town Notes

Cape Cod Times

Brew, oysters take center stage at Cape Cod Beer’s fest

[Photo Credit: Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times]

The oysters are coming to Hyannis on Saturday, and the beer crafted with oysters from all over the Cape will be there as well.

Cape Cod Beer is re-releasing its Shucker’s Reward Oyster Stout as part of the first “Shuck! A Day of Oysters & Beer, ” taking place from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Cape Cod Beer, 1336 Phinney’s Lane in Hyannis.

The new event celebrates local industries and entrepreneurs with an afternoon of entertainment, food and drink, and a dash of education besides.

The festivities promise a tasty selection of Cape Cod oysters and locally brewed beer, plus live music from the band 57 Heavy and opener Chris Parkin, all musicians boasting local roots.

Amanda Kaiser, marketing manager at Cape Cod Beer, touts the local nature of the event: “We wanted to highlight the oysters that come from all across Cape Cod,” she says. The oyster farms Big Rock Oyster and Cape Cod Oyster will operate raw bars throughout the afternoon, shucking and serving a variety of the world-famous bivalves that originate in our local waters.”

Eight varieties of oysters will be served, all grown in the Cape towns of Dennis, Yarmouth, Brewster, Orleans, Barnstable and Falmouth. Kaiser emphasizes that the shellfish vary considerably in texture and flavor depending on exactly where they’re raised. It’s due, she says, to the salinity of the water, geography of a particular growing site and the type of water flow in any particular area.

The inaugural “Shuck!” event will give oyster fans an opportunity to savor the many subtle flavors. She says variations in taste are “part of what inspired the idea (to showcase) oysters that come from different towns, all during one event.”

In addition to oysters, the Barnstable Association for Recreational Shellfishing will serve clam chowder. Foods trucks will sell fare for those who are not seafood eaters.

Shuck! is being held a week after the Wellfleet Oysterfest, which draws about 20,000 visitors during its three-day run each October. Organized by the nonprofit S.P.A.T. (Shellfish Promotion and Tasting, Inc.), the lower Cape event began as an educational harvest festival and grew to include entertainment, a 5K race, restaurant samplings, shucking contests and more.

Kaiser says Shuck! is a chance to build awareness of the diversity of oysters grown in waters around the mid- and Upper Cape, extending to Falmouth.

Along with several other varieties of its own custom brews, Cape Cod Beer plans to re-release its Shucker’s Reward Oyster Stout. Kaiser explains that some of the stout’s flavor is due to more than 20 pounds of locally-sourced whole oysters, which are encased in a mesh bag and added to the water during the boil phase of the brewing process. The calcium in the shells, she says, alters the pH of the water the beer is brewed in, adding to the stout’s character and flavor.

Equally important, according to organizers, is the event’s educational component. Cape Cod Community Media Center and Barnstable Channel 18 have created several short videos, titled “Movers & Shuckers,” that will be shown on continuous loop throughout the day, helping illustrate the importance of the oyster to the region’s economy and ecology.

The footage captures the Cape’s lush natural marine surroundings and the farming process, zeroing in on the people who work the shellfish grants and run the Aquacultural Research Corporation hatchery in Dennis. It describes the outsize economic impact this industry has on the peninsula, generating overall industry-related revenues that in 2017 were worth $30 million to the Cape Cod economy, according to Melissa Sanderson, chief operating officer of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, on the video.

These numbers emphasize how oyster cultivation is a boon to the Cape’s economy – to shellfishermen and farmers, scientists, wholesalers and restaurants, and how it enhances tourism and local consumer purchases.

Oysters, says Kaiser, add to health and happiness in other ways, too. An event exhibit created by the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition will show how the oyster population helps maintain water quality by consuming nitrogen and phosphorous that can pose a danger to marine ecosystems. Kaiser says “a single oyster can filter 50 gallons of ocean water a day,” helping keep the waters clean. The calcium that helps make up the oyster shells also helps neutralize the ocean’s acidity.

Cape Cod Times - Brew, oysters take center stage at Cape Cod Beer’s fest

The Barnstable Patriot
Posted Sep 13, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Barnstable moves ahead with Cotuit Cut dredging

[Photo By: Bronwen Howells Walsh]

On Sept. 6, Barnstable Town Council unanimously approved a $1 million capital appropriation to fund dredging Cotuit Bay Entrance Channel.

Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells announced that the town was also awarded a $1 million MassWorks grant toward the project, which is designed to open up the channel and allow more natural flushing of nutrients.

“The only communities who got these (state) grants were communities that were ready to go,” Ells said. He added that the funding request and state grant came together is less than two months.

The 2018 pilot MassWorks program awards communities funding on a competitive basis, emphasizing shovel-ready projects that already have secured local, state, and federal permits. The program also requires a 50:50 match commitment from municipalities receiving the funding.

Dredging Cotuit Cut is scheduled to get underway Monday, Oct. 15, and continue through mid-January. The project will remove 44,000 cubic yards of sediment and coastal dune from the Cotuit Bay channel, increasing its width by 50 percent.

Another $2 million is earmarked for dredging the western end of Sampson’s Island, with disposal occurring on the eastern end of Dead Neck Island, in an amended version of H4868. The Economic Development Bond Bill was approved by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker Aug. 21, but that next phase of funding has not yet been released.

Ells praised the Cape Cod legislative delegation for prioritizing coastal resiliency. He thanked Barnstable Clean Water Association (BCWA) for matching the project’s permitting costs, and he credited Dan Santos, director of the Barnstable Public Works Department, for devising a long-term, town-wide dredging schedule.

At the council’s Aug. 9 meeting, Ells and Santos presented that long-term dredging plan for 31 channels in the town, which is facing about a 10-year backlog.

Of the 31 dredging projects on the town’s wait list, 17 sites are considered as routine maintenance. Dredging the rest gets increasingly complicated due to fine-grain and silty sediments and water quality issues, like the excessive nutrient load in the Three Bays area.

“We’re looking to move about 40,000 cubic yards (of sediment) annually at an average cost of $1.5 million,” Ells said.

Councilor Jessica Rapp Grassetti, who represents Cotuit and Precinct 7, commended Ells and Santos for securing the state grant to dredge Cotuit Cut, a project she described as both important and political.

“Dredging will do wonders to flush the bay,” said Rapp Grassetti. “It’s a three-year permit, whose ownership is being transferred to the town. It should not be allowed to languish. We should not have to rely on private organizations to do it.”

In the 1960s, Rapp Grassetti said, the channel was a very long opening that provided “turnover water” to flush the bays.

“It became more and more dangerous as sands shifted east to west,” she said. “Sampson’s Island public beach often would need to be closed due to the extremely strong current, which also caused a couple of drownings. It’s been so long (since the channel’s been dredged) that the geography has changed.”

In the mid-1990s, several area residents worked to keep Dead Neck Island intact and save the land sitting behind that barrier island. They formed a private organization and raised more than $1.5 million to nourish the island’s barrier beach, owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

According to BCWA, almost 300,000 cubic yards of sand has been deposited upon Dead Neck Island in the past 13 years to build the island back up and create critical habitat for endangered coastal shore birds.

“Among the many benefits of this restoration project, water quality in Cotuit Bay is expected to improve by three to seven percent,” Rapp Grassetti said.

The Barnstable Patriot - Barnstable moves ahead with Cotuit Cut dredging

The Barnstable Patriot

50,000 oysters to grow in Hyannis tank

The Massachusetts Oyster Project and Barnstable Clean Water Coalition (BCWC) have partnered on a project to raise 50,000 oysters in a tank located at Gateway Marina in Hyannis.

Water from Hyannis Harbor will be pumped into a tank (known as an upweller), circulated through silos containing the oysters, and released back into the harbor.

In all, 50,000 oyster seed -- called spat (measuring approximately 1-5 millimeters in length) -- were placed in the Hyannis upweller July 27.

“BCWC is excited to partner with Mass Oyster to educate the public on the many benefits oysters provide to our coastal environments and to restore native oyster populations to Barnstable waters,” said Zenas Crocker, executive director of BCWC.

Oysters make a significant contribution to removing nitrogen, the main culprit for declining water quality on Cape Cod, according to Crocker.

Mass Oyster and BCWC aim to further their knowledge of oysters’ impacts on water quality by collecting samples and data from this system and surrounding waters.

They will utilize the publicly accessible and highly visible site to educate visitors and the public on the social, economic, and environmental benefits provided by oysters.

In the fall, Mass Oyster and BCWC will work alongside the Town of Barnstable to relocate the oysters to appropriate sites where they can continue to filter the water and enhance habitat until they become harvestable size.

According to the BCWC, an upweller is a large box through which seawater continually gets pumped. Inside the box are buckets with spat. The water gets pumped from the harbor on one side, rises through the oysters in the buckets, enters a trough, and flows out of the box. By having water continuously flowing over the seeds, the spat are provided with a constant food source.

The BCWC also pointed out the many benefits of oysters. First and foremost, a single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. The process removes nutrients -- nitrogen and phosphorous -- as well as sediments from the water column. Additionally, they serve as a buffer against ocean acidification. Oysters shells will dissolve in water over time and release calcium carbonate, thereby helping to balance the pH of the ocean.

Oysters were donated from Muscongus Bay Aquaculture.

BCWC will be giving weekly public presentations on the tank.

Visit or for more information.

The Barnstable Patriot - 50,000 oysters to grow in Hyannis tank

The Barnstable PatriotBy Marina Davalos
Jul 6, 2018

Watershed update presents problems while offering hope

[Photo Credit: BCWC]
[Photo Credit: Board Member of BCWC]
[Photo Credit: BCWC]











On June 29 Osterville native Zenas “Zee” Crocker told an audience of about 175 of his shock -- upon moving home three years ago -- of seeing algae blooms in the water.

“I always thought that algae was microscopic, but this is a type of algae,” said Crocker, executive director of Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, displaying a slide of ulva, a type of non-naturally occurring “sea lettuce” growing at Prince Cove in Marstons Mills.

The reason for these algae blooms, he explained, is an excess of nitrogen discharge from septic systems into the water.

“Too much nitrogen from septic systems over-fertilizes,” Crocker said. “It pollutes the water and creates algae blooms that kill off sea life.”

The open house presentation, titled “An Update on Our Waters and Watersheds,” took place at the Wianno Club. The forum also featured Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells and Chris Kilian, vice president of strategic litigation at Conservation Law Foundation.

“You’re going to hear some things tonight that may scare you a little,” Barnstable Clean Water Coalition President Michael Egan said by way of introduction. “But it’s designed to do that.”

The presentation focused on Three Bays, one of the Cape’s 53 watersheds, which encompasses embayments, rivers, ponds, and lakes in Marstons Mills, Osterville, Cotuit, and Sandwich.

According to the Cape Cod Commission, Three Bays is the third worst-polluted watershed on the Cape.

“The good news is, there’s a lot of interest in this watershed,” said Crocker. “It’s a living laboratory.”

Sewering is not an option for the watershed, due to its geological features and prohibitive cost (it would cost at least a billion dollars), but there are alternatives. That’s where the Cape Cod Commission’s 208 Plan comes in as a watershed-based approach to restoring embayment water quality on Cape Cod.

“The 208 Plan isn’t necessarily a plan, but it’s more like a menu,” Crocker said. Some of the “menu options” include dredging; wetland restoration; storm water management such as rain gardens; and aquaculture, such as oysters, which filter the water and reduce nitrogen.

The 208 Plan also proposes an alternative to a conventional Title 5 systems.

A NitROE tank is a supplement to an existing Title 5 in which an aeration chamber and a wood chip chamber are installed. The wood chips are a carbon source and filter waste for significant total nitrogen reduction.

“These systems are being tested at the Joint Base in Sandwich and on Martha’s Vineyard, and have demonstrated nitrogen removal rates of as much as 95 percent,” Crocker said.

According to Ells, water quality on Cape Cod is indeed a very complex issue.

“It’s all about quality of life and maintaining our unique character. At the center of that is water,” he said.

Ells mentioned some of the projects that have taken place, including dredging in East Bay.

“Did it solve the problem? No. Did it make a difference? Yes,” said Ells, adding that he’s optimistic for the future.

Kilian, whose organization led the cleanup of Boston Harbor in the 1980s, echoed both Crocker and Ells.

“Here on the Cape, there’s such a broad understanding of how fundamental water is,” Kilian said. “In the 1980s, this is the same talk that was happening around Boston Harbor.”

Kilian said the criteria for passing or failing Title 5 systems, set by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, have not met the requirements of the law.

“When it comes to nitrogen discharge into the waters of the Commonwealth, there should be no system that should have been passed,” he said. “It’s a long dialogue that needs to be translated into action.”

For more information, visit

The Barnstable Patriot - Watershed update presents problems while offering hope

NOAA FisheriesApr 20, 2018

River Herring are Running in Local Rivers

River herring gets over a fish ladder at Mill Pond in Marstons Mills on Cape Cod.
River herring gets over a fish ladder at Mill Pond in Marstons Mills on Cape Cod.

It’s that time of year. River herring are returning to local rivers and streams to spawn. For Northeast Fisheries Science Center researcher Ruth Haas-Castro, counts began April 1 at Mill Pond in Marstons Mills on Cape Cod and will continue while the river herring are running in April and May, sometimes into June. Water temperature needs to be about 52 degrees F for the river herring to move, which means the night-time temperatures have to remain above freezing.

Haas-Castro, who studies Atlantic salmon and other river-run fish species, volunteers for a ten-minute time slot at Mill Pond when she has a chance, joining a community count run by the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Town of Barnstable. The coalition runs the Mill Pond count and the town manages a count at Middle Pond just up the road.

“I’ve been participating in the count since 2011. It helps me keep a finger on the pulse of river herring,” Haas-Castro said of her volunteer efforts. “Plus it's really close to my house so it is easy for me to do, and its related to my work.”

There are twelve slots each day for the Mill Pond count, with nine required for a good count. Most are filled by retirees and other interested citizens. The weather has been cool and Haas-Castro hadn’t seen any fish until Saturday, April 14, when she counted 7 river herring during her 10-minute slot.

Haas-Castro has recruited several other NEFSC staff to join the effort, and noted that similar river herring counts are going on all over the Cape and up and down the Atlantic coast.

World Fish Migration Day is celebrated on April 21, but events are planned through May.

NOAA Fisheries - River Herring are Running in Local Rivers

The Barnstable Patriot
Posted Feb 8, 2018 at 10:15 AM
Updated Feb 14, 2018 at 1:21 PM

Landscaping with native plants can help clean Cape waters

[Photo Credit: BCWC]

Part two in a three-part series.

The Barnstable Clean Water Coalition is taking proven nitrogen mitigation technologies out of the lab and into Marstons Mills Watershed.

“By implementing several technologies in the same watershed, we aim to study the cumulative impacts of the overall strategy,” BCWC Executive Director Zenas Crocker said Feb. 1. “This ‘living laboratory’ will take science out of the lab and test it under real world conditions.”

While the BCWC also supports and advocates traditional, municipal treatment, Crocker said, “we see a number of relatively low-cost alternatives as a way to begin mitigating nitrogen as soon as they’re implemented.”

Aquaculture, dredging, and wetlands restoration will positively impact the water within years, instead of decades, Crocker maintains.

Likewise Jack Ahern, a professor at UMass-Amherst, and 10 of his graduate students are exploring alternative water treatments in a new book, “Three Bays Watershed: Landscape-Based Solutions to Improve Water Quality,” published in partnership with BCWC.

Winner of the 2003 Fábos medal for his international leadership in landscape and greenway planning, Ahern advocates using “Cape-friendly landscapes” that focus on native plants.

Native plants limit the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation, which helps minimize nitrate concentrations in freshwater wells, ponds, and lakes as well as ocean bays and estuaries, Ahern said.

“I connected with Zee (Crocker) because I am a homeowner in Osterville and concerned about trends in landscape design all over Cape Cod, including in Barnstable,” Ahern said.

Ahern said he wonders why there are relatively few outstanding native plant landscape designs in Three Bays, considering the waters are so compromised with high nitrogen levels.

Landscape for new development and redevelopment “tend to go in the conventional way,” he said, “which incrementally erodes why – consciously or unconsciously – you come to the Cape in the first place: it’s a distinct landscape. The unique landscape of the Cape is being incrementally transformed.”

Going forward, Ahern said, he would like to develop working partnerships with people willing to illustrate the concept.

“I’m talking about landscapes that have been developed by people building houses and office buildings,” said Ahern, adding that his research team is seeking partners and demo landscapes that “walk the walk in a public way.”

“The aesthetics matter,” he said before adding: “The way to convince people is not to lecture about what’s wrong. It’s also (about what’s) beautiful.”

Particularly memorable examples of doing it right, he said, include WHOI’s Quissett campus in Woods Hole; the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s world headquarters in Yarmouth Port; and West Tisbury Free Public Library on Martha’s Vineyard.

Ahern recommends featuring native plants like bayberry, beach plum, and inkberry shrubs; meadow grasses like Little Bluestem and Seaside Goldenrod; and unmowed grasses like New England Aster, flowering Baptisia, and Rudbeckia.

For detailed “how-to” information and a link to downloadable rain garden app, visit For a rain garden plant list, go to or For ways to help protect local waters, see and

The Barnstable Patriot - Landscaping with native plants can help clean Cape waters

The Barnstable Patriot
Posted Jan 25, 2018 at 10:11 AM
Updated Jan 25, 2018 at 10:11 AM

New book seeks to help Three Bays Watershed

[Photo Credit: BCWC]

Part one in a three-part series.

University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Jack Ahern and 10 graduate students -- with financial support from the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition -- have published a collection of site-specific landscape architecture pilot projects that are custom-designed to help clean up Mill Pond and Three Bays Watershed.

Ahern’s graduate “studio” looked holistically at a study area within the watershed, centering on the Marstons Mills River -- the primary tributary of Three Bays. Providing landscape solutions for improving water quality is their goal. Their work culminated in the 67-page report published in limited edition last month and is the basis of a forthcoming book by Ahern, who owns a home in Osterville.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Town of Barnstable, and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod have been collaborating for years on coastal watershed restoration in Three Bays, which is seen as one of the most compromised sites on Cape Cod. In 2016, a summer algal bloom caused fish kills and put the commercial oyster industry within Three Bays at risk.

According to Ahern and his students, the 12,000-acre watershed is 92 percent developed, with 7,000 residential parcels that fall within the towns of Barnstable, Sandwich, and Mashpee. Only 21 percent of the watershed is protected open space. Consequently, the water quality of the Three Bays is seriously impaired, routinely exceeding water quality standards for nitrogen.

Leading causes of pollution include septic system leaching (77 percent), stormwater discharge (13 percent), and fertilizer runoff (10 percent), the study says. Because almost 80 percent of the nitrates in the watershed are released from domestic uses, the study concludes, “landscape-based solutions to water quality degradation need to be collaborative and community-driven.”

The study says Cape Cod’s unique landscape features -- specifically, its sole-source aquifer and sandy soils -- also contribute to the severity of the region’s water quality concerns, exacerbating the high levels of nitrogen and bacteria in the water.

“Existing nitrogen levels are much higher in the upper areas of the Bays, especially North Bay, Prince Cove, and the mouth of the Marstons Mills River,” reads the report.

Hence, a proposed Herring Run Loop restoration and another pilot program that suggest reuse of dredged Mill Pond muck are both designed as “a conceptual toolkit.” The goals are increasing community stewardship, building upon the town’s vision for a boardwalk along Mill Pond, restoring the herring habitat, and -- ultimately -- re-introducing recreational boating and fishing.

Once thought to average 6- to 12-feet deep, Mill Pond is now as shallow as six inches in some places due to many years of erosion and sediment buildup, preventing it from being a functional aquatic ecosystem, the report concludes.

Immediately adjacent to the pond, a 14-acre parcel of land recently purchased by the Town of Barnstable from the Archibald family could be used as a staging area for dredging and dewatering the sediment in Mill Pond. In fact, Barnstable Town Council on Jan. 18 voted to approve a transfer order of $250,000 toward the pond’s dredging.

Although groundwater moves very slowly, says BCWA Executive Director Zenas Crocker, help is on the way for Three Bays -- provided that residents are willing to change their behavior.

“The bigger picture is going to be social change,” Crocker said in a Jan. 12 interview at coalition headquarters in Osterville. “How do we motivate people to make these changes?”

Current attitudes towards lawn maintenance contribute to compromised water quality by way of lawn fertilizer and septic leeching, the report also concludes.

“Do something now,” said the usually mild-mannered Crocker, shifting gears from fact-finding to activism as he enters his second year as the coalition’s executive director. “For instance, an effective way to reduce nitrogen is to put an irrigation well next to your septic system.”

Equally important to the Cape’s water restoration, Crocker said, is using native coastal plants like bayberry, beach plum, and inkberry -- along with marsh, meadow and unmowed grasses -- to re-grade the topography, especially along Mill Pond and the Marstons Mills River corridor.

“Native flora has evolved with other species in the ecosystem and plays a critical role in supporting habitat for other species,” reads the report. In addition, native flora does not require extra watering or chemicals to thrive.

Landscape architecture grad students who authored the Three Bays Watershed Studio Report include: Andrew Capelluti, Allison Gramolini, Maggie Kraus, Sara Lawler, Mimi Lo, Kate O’Connor, Doug Serrill, Alysha Thompson, and Diance Tian. Contributors also include Horsley Witten Group, Barnstable Land Trust, and the Cape Cod Commission.

Upcoming articles in this series will focus on Ahern, who is vice provost of International Programs and professor of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at UMass/Amherst, and an emerging partnership with the Nature Conservancy.

Three Bays Watershed by the numbers

12,458 acres

7,093 parcels

92 percent developed residential lots
(approximately 1.6 acres per parcel)

Contributing towns: Barnstable,
Sandwich and Mashpee

54 freshwater ponds

Major freshwater streams:
Marstons Mills River & Little River

Source: Three-Bays Watershed: Landscape-Based Solutions to Improve Water Quality

The Barnstable Patriot - New book seeks to help Three Bays Watershed

2017 Articles

Cape Cod Times
Oct 25, 2017

Opposition to Sampsons project misplaced

The expertise of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Massachusetts Audubon Society is being called into question by a very small group of beachgoers who object to the removal of 400 feet of the western point of Sampsons Island. Their arguments are misplaced. The degradation of the point and channel affects both the birds and the beaches to the west, Loop and Riley’s.

The success rate of shorebird nesting sites here is miserable at best, and nonexistent lately. The point is the most exposed to the full variety of least tern and piping plover enemies: Nantucket Sound, which washes out nests; predatory birds, which lay waste to eggs and nestlings; and, finally, Homo sapiens, accompanied occasionally by the family dog, whose odor and proximity can be sensed. These sites are “killing fields” and do need to be removed to force the birds to go to safer nesting habitat. The Mass Audubon’s well-reasoned management plan will greatly improve the amount and success rate of prime nesting habitat elsewhere on the islands.

The removal of the point will improve the swimming. This was the most valuable section of Sampsons Island in the 1950s. But now, the weight of the sand at the point is extruding a foul-smelling sediment of undetermined origin. These sediments are degrading the area, even for the Barnstable Citizens Group (“Audubon, Three Bays must consider alternatives in Cotuit,” My View, Oct. 12), and must be removed. We heartily support efforts to identify this substance and have it promptly and efficiently removed!

The navigable channel must be restored for safety reasons. Swimmers interact at their peril with the boat traffic that is forced ever closer to Riley’s Beach by the spit’s growth and the flow of the tide here. We are fearful that, at any time, accidents between boats and swimmers will happen that would not if the harbor entrance were widened. The matter of safety here has been on the local civic association’s list of Cotuit concerns for annual meetings with the town manager and town department heads for as long as such meetings have been held.

Although widening the entrance will not have a great impact on lessening the nitrogen loading of Cotuit Bay, any improvement is a positive one. General water quality will be improved — even if only by a slight percentage. Commercial shellfish operations by Cotuit Oyster Co. and others are compromised by the narrowing entrance. An increased flow of water from Nantucket Sound will have a positive effect on their product and the entire bay. The proprietor supports this project wholeheartedly. The disturbance of sediment will be temporary and ephemeral.

All this shore is dynamic, and the sand is perfectly suitable — even as a temporary bulwark — against the erosion at the east side of Dead Neck. On the other hand, the recommendation to dredge the entire Cotuit channel is an excellent idea, one the town of Barnstable should rapidly pursue and then maintain. Why? Because to ensure attractive and successful nesting habitat, refreshing the south shore has to be a continual project. Moving the sand from the point of Sampsons Island is merely the beginning of an ongoing effort to maintain bird habitat of these bird sanctuaries. It’s time for the naysayers to stop their efforts to stall this project.

Cape Cod Times
October 8, 2017

Restoring a Mill Pond

Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, says it’s time to shout “hair on fire” about the degrading quality of the Cape’s water resources -- from its groundwater to fresh water ponds and salty estuaries.

Formerly Three Bays Preservation Inc., the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition now works to restore and preserve clean water throughout the entire town of Barnstable. Crocker and his team warn that the Cape’s water is impaired, mostly by excess levels of nitrogen. On average, 85 percent of nitrogen in our waters comes from septic systems, 10 percent from fertilizers that most of us dump on our lawns every year, and 5 percent from stormwater runoff.

The Massachusetts Estuaries Project has determined that the Three Bays estuary and embayment system, comprised of West Bay, North Bay and Cotuit Bay on the south side of the Cape, receives about 46,000 kilograms of nitrogen per year from septic systems, fertilizer and stormwater runoff. The total watershed limit for Three Bays is about 26,000 kilograms per year. As a result, about 20,000 kilograms of nitrogen must be removed from the watershed.

How is that accomplished?

According to the Cape Cod Commission, about half the excess nitrogen, or 10,000 kilograms, could be removed by aquaculture alone. Oysters and quahogs filter nitrogen from the water. About 43 acres of aquaculture beds would be needed to remove this amount of nitrogen, and finding suitable sites may be the most challenging obstacle. After all, oceanfront homeowners have gone to court to stop aquaculture projects near their beaches.

Of course, mitigating stormwater runoff and managing fertilizers would also reduce the nitrogen load.

But in one of the most ambitious projects to reduce nitrogen in the Three Bays watershed, the Coalition also supports restoring Mill Pond off Route 149 in Marstons Mills. Mill Pond dates back to the 17th century when it was created by a small dam, built to power a gristmill. The Cape is home to scores of mill ponds.

Currently, Mill Pond receives most of its nitrogen from the Marstons Mills River, which flows into the pond from the north. But because the pond is very shallow, less than two feet deep on average, most of the nitrogen flows right through the pond and continues heading south to Three Bays.
The plan is to dredge the pond to restore its ability to act as a nitrogen trap or “sink.” This important ecological role has been significantly diminished due to significant eutrophication and sedimentation over the past 300 years.

“Longer (nitrogen) residence time provides for more settling of solids and increased biological uptake and dentifrification processes,” according to a report last year from the Cape Cod Commission.

Currently, the pond retains only about 25 percent of the nitrogen that flows through it. By dredging sediments that have built up over the centuries, the pond could retain as much as 60 percent of the nitrogen.

According to a study conducted by Lycott Associates Inc. in 2008, about 90 percent of the pond contains organic sediment in excess of seven feet deep. In 2012, under contract with the Cape Cod Water Collaborative, Horsley Witten Group Inc. prepared an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) for the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office (MEPA). The ENF was submitted for the proposed Mill Pond Improvements Project with the overall goal of nutrient attenuation, water quality, habitat improvements in Mill Pond and water quality improvements in the downstream systems.

But dredging requires a series of state and local permits. And according to the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP), Mill Pond contains the bridle shiner, a small fish protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. According to the Cape Cod Commission, the NHESP provided recommendations to alter the project footprint to confine dredging to a more limited portion of the pond to protect the shoreline habitat as well as provide an area of refuge in the southeastern portion of the pond during dredging. Based upon this information, a revised project has been designed that includes a more limited dredging area.

Crocker believes the Mill Pond project could be “a living laboratory,” where lessons from project could be applied to all the other mill ponds across the Cape.

The Barnstable Patriot
September 11, 2017

Barnstable Town Council adopts draft of long-term wastewater treatment plan

Lindsey Counsell’s work is done, and yet it’s just begun.

Counsell retired in April after 20 years as executive director of Three Bays. He retired again Aug. 17 as chairman of the town’s Water Resources Advisory Committee, because the committee’s work – 18 months of inventorying, sampling and testing – is now complete. The resulting draft report identifies and meticulously measures Barnstable’s sewering water woes and recommends how to best deal with them.

Thanks to Counsell, Barnstable DPW Director Dan Santos, Town Engineer Paul Graves, and Assistant Town Engineer Amanda Ruggiero, the town has a working draft of a wastewater treatment management plan designed to protect and improve the town’s water supply over the next 60 years, in compliance with the Capewide Section 208 Water Quality Management Plan.


The Barnstable Patriot
September 1, 2017

APCC offers plan to reduce Three Bays nitrogen

Stormwater runoff and fertilizer account for more than 23 percent of the nitrogen polluting the Three Bays watershed, according to the first phase of a three-year study by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the town of Barnstable.

Three Bays is severely degraded by nitrogen and bacteria, resulting in poor water quality, degraded habitat and closures of beaches and shellfish areas, restoration ecologist April Wobst told an audience of two dozen local residents at Osterville Village Library Wednesday. Excess nutrients cause algae blooms, block out light, use up oxygen and kill fish and shellfish in beach waters, especially after heavy rains.


The Barnstable Patriot
August 3, 2017

Barnstable Clean Water Coalition: Cape’s nitrogen crisis is treatable

Barnstable Clean Water Coalition Event
[Photo By: Bronwen Howells Walsh]
Barnstable gets its drinking water from the same source that its septic systems are leaching into, and the nitrogen crisis facing Cape Cod is not sustainable.

That’s what Michael Egan, president of the board of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition (formerly Three Bays Preservation), told the audience during his lecture at Osterville Village Library Tuesday. Following the talk, attendees burst forth with questions about reversing a creeping tide of water pollution.

“This water quality problem affects the entire economics of the Cape,” Egan said. “You’re here for the quality of life that has at its heart the water. People think [nitrogen pollution] is all up in Prince Cove...but it’s creeping down to North Bay. People haven’t figured it out yet.”

The good news is that Barnstable has seven distinct watersheds, Egan said.


Cape Cod Times
August 2, 2017

Three Bays Preservation renamed, focus expanded

Three Bays Preservation Inc. has changed its name to the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and expanded its focus to be a town-wide organization dedicated to restoring and preserving clean water in marine estuaries, ponds, rivers, and coves throughout Barnstable, according to a statement from the organization.

The nonprofit was founded in 1996 to dredge areas around a barrier island and undertake conservation, science and policy initiatives in and around the watershed that includes West, North and Cotuit bays, the statement says.

The coalition unveiled its vision for its new focus at a June 23 open house, at which Executive Director Zenas Crocker explained the four cornerstones of its mission — monitoring, education, advocacy and mitigation, the statement says.

Cape Cod Today
JUNE 29, 2017

Barnstable Clean Water Coalition Tackles Water Quality Crisis

Former Three Bays Preservation evolves into town-wide organization

A flagship environmental non-profit founded in Osterville in 1996 has now evolved into a new town-wide organization dedicated to restoring and preserving clean water in marine estuaries, ponds, rivers, and coves throughout Barnstable.

Before a packed community Open House in Osterville on June 23, Zenas Crocker, the new executive director of Barnstable Clean Water Coalition (, unveiled the vision for morphing into a town-wide entity. “Monitoring, Education, Advocacy and Mitigationwill be the four cornerstones of this rescue mission to save impaired bodies of water throughout Barnstable,” Crocker explained.

Excess nitrogen leaching from septic systems in marine embayments and freshwater ponds powered the decision to evolve, added Crocker. Other causes of water pollution include road runoff from lawn fertilizers, detergents from washing cars and doing laundry, as well as other metals and hydrocarbons.

Another way to look at the marine crisis is that every day nitrogen equal to sixty-five 50-pound bags of fertilizer flows into the 1,251-acre Three Bays Estuary alone that encompasses North, West and Cotuit Bays. In fact, nitrogen levels far exceed critical levels established by the Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP.) Nitrogen also pours into Cape Cod Bay and other marine estuaries within the Town of Barnstable.

BCWC will continue to collaborate closely in its expansion on water quality sampling through UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) as well as working with other science institutions and like-minded non-profits. “The Coalition is now town-wide because the issues we face as a community can be acutely addressed by expanding our mission area to include the whole town,” Crocker clarified.

Up until recently, BCWC was Three Bays Preservation, Inc., founded in 1996 to dredge areas around a treasured barrier island and undertake conservation, science and policy initiatives in and around the watershed that encompasses West, North and Cotuit Bays. Now that BCWC is town-wide, the organization will pivot to include Barnstable’s entire 75-plus square mile area.

“The emergence of Barnstable Clean Water Coalition marks a new era in water conservation on Cape Cod,” remarked Michael J. Egan, president of the Board of Directors. “We will explore time-honored methods of restoration and Non-Traditional Technologies (NTT’s) will also be in our restoration arsenal,” Egan added.

Barnstable Clean Water Coalition (BCWC) works to restore and preserve clean water in the Cape Cod Town of Barnstable. For more information please visit:; phone 508-420-0780, or email

Cape Cod Today - Barnstable Clean Water Coalition Tackles Water Quality Crisis

The Barnstable Patriot
June 28, 2017

Barnstable Clean Water Coalition renews call to action at Osterville open house

It was a celebration of past accomplishments combined with a fresh call to action for the future as the newly-christened Barnstable Clean Water Coalition – formerly known as Three Bays Preservation – held an open house at Nauticus Marina on Friday, June 23.

A portion of the late afternoon/evening event in Osterville was dedicated to honoring longtime Three Bays director Lindsey Counsell, who retired this spring after leading the nonprofit for two decades.

“This is really the logical next step for this organization,” Counsell told the crowd.

The name change comes with an new mission that not only expands the organization’s physical scope but its purpose, embracing not only education but advocacy as well.


Saturday, June 24, 2017
Media Contact:
Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, Executive Director, Zenas “Zee” Crocker

Osterville Village Library Hosts Wonder of Water Lecture Series

Lectures Presented by Barnstable Clean Water Coalition
Formerly Three Bays Preservation, Inc.

Osterville, Mass. –Seven illustrated and thought-provoking programs on the natural history,
cultural heritage and environmental science of West, North and Cotuit Bays and the Town of
Barnstable will be held in July and August at the Osterville Village Library.
The lecture series on the Three Bays Estuary is entitled: Wonder of Water. These unique talks
feature engaging expert speakers from the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, formerly, Three
Bays Preservation, Inc. For more information about the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, please
visit:, phone 508-420-0780, or email
All lectures are free and open to the public. Presentations begin at 5 p.m. in the Main Meeting
Room at the Osterville Village Library located at 43 Wianno Avenue:

Tuesday, July 11
It Takes a Town: The Path Forward for Clean Water in Barnstable

Lindsey B. Counsell
Director Emeritus
Three Bays Preservation, Inc.

Lindsey has spent over two decades devoted to protecting the Three Bays Watershed. He also is
Chair of the Town of Barnstable’s Water Resources Advisory Committee with a mission to
advise the Town of Barnstable on completing and implementing a Comprehensive Water Management
Planning Project. His talk will outline the details of that planning project.

Tuesday, July 18
A Native Cape Cod Garden - Planting with a Purpose
Kristin Andres
Director of Education & Outreach
Association to Preserve Cape Cod

The use of native plants in our managed landscape, together with ecologically-friendly land care
practices, can help protect the purity of our waters, support bees, butterflies and birds, and
preserve the essence of Cape Cod. Hear about some of our valued Cape Cod native species and
how you can better steward your piece of the Cape!

Wednesday, July 26
Barnstable’s Milestone Opportunity: Implementing the 208 Plan
Scott W. Horsley
Water Resources Consultant

This illustrated lecture will present the watershed plan for Three Bays that was designed by the
Cape Cod Commission to address the water quality problems caused by excessive nitrogen. The
plan includes a range of innovative strategies including storm water management, fertilizer
controls, permeable reactive barriers, pond dredging, wetland restoration, fertigation, alternative
septic system technologies, and aquaculture.

Tuesday, August 1
Barnstable’s Nitrogen Crisis
Michael “Mike” J. Egan
President, Board of Directors, Barnstable Clean Water Coalition

In this thought-provoking and illustrated presentation, a noted Cape Cod conservationist
continues to rally the cry for understanding how nitrogen pollutes our ecosystem, and what we as
a community could do about it.

Tuesday, August 8
Wings, Fins and Watery Wonders: Exploring Wildlife in the Three Bays Watershed
Meg Materne, Science Manager
Barnstable Clean Water Coalition

Get a compelling glimpse into one of the most ecologically bio-diverse regions on Cape Cod, the
12,458-acre watershed that includes West, North and Cotuit Bays.

Tuesday, August 15
Introducing the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition: Barnstable’s Innovative Future
Zenas “Zee” Crocker
Executive Director
Barnstable Clean Water Coalition

Within the 1,245-acre estuary, West, North and Cotuit Bays look pristine, but in reality, these
embayments along with other bodies of water in the Town of Barnstable are threatened by excess
nitrogen. Learn about the new generation of conservation advocacy led by the Barnstable Clean
Water Coalition, as well as enlightened, comprehensive plans to protect watersheds in the Town
of Barnstable.

Tuesday, August 22
The Indomitable Oyster: Nature’s Way Toward Ecosystem Strength
Mike Moynihan
Member, Barnstable Clean Water Coalition

Oh, the power of a single animal! Oysters are natural filter feeders that can significantly help
cleanse an ecosystem. In this engaging and illustrated lecture, Mike will enthrall listeners with
true tales of these tiny but mighty creatures.

Cape Cod Times
June 26, 2017

Three Bays Preservation Gets New Name, Updated Mission

Cape Cod Harbor

OSTERVILLE – Three Bays Preservation hosted an open house on Friday to reintroduce themselves to the community, now as The Barnstable Clean Water Coalition. The Coalition’s Executive Director Zenas Crocker says that the new name serves a number of purposes for the organization.


Michael Egan's Editorials

Michael “Mike” Egan, president of the Board of Directors at Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, presented a well-received illustrated lecture on Barnstable’s nitrogen crisis at Osterville Village Library on Tuesday, August 1.

Barnstable Clean Water Coalition: Cape’s nitrogen crisis is treatable

The Barnstable Patriot
August 3, 2017

Barnstable gets its drinking water from the same source that its septic systems are leaching into, and the nitrogen crisis facing Cape Cod is not sustainable.

That’s what Michael Egan, president of the board of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition (formerly Three Bays Preservation), told the audience during his lecture at Osterville Village Library Tuesday. Following the talk, attendees burst forth with questions about reversing a creeping tide of water pollution.


Three Bays Preservation: Coloring in between the lines of a blue economy

February 22, 2017
By: Michael J. Egan

The blue water economy aptly describes how Cape Codders support themselves through tourism and sustainable year-round occupations. Cape Cod’s blue water economy and unique ecosystem have been around for hundreds of years...

Click Here to Read Article...

The Origins of Barnstable’s Drinking Water

January 13, 2017
By: Michael J. Egan

One of our most critical components to life here in the Town of Barnstable lies just beneath our feet.

But have you thought of exactly where our drinking water come from?

All drinking water in the Town of Barnstable comes from the ground. We don't get it from reservoirs, lakes or reverse osmosis. We pump it from a thin layer of fresh water, an aquifer, that exists between the ground surface and sea level. And researching this key conservation issue—clean water in our estuary and beneath the ground—is the DNA at Three Bays Preservation Inc.

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Clean Water is a Fundamental Right of Citizenship

November 11, 2016
By: Michael J. Egan

Access to clean water is a fundamental right of every citizen in the Town of Barnstable. After public safety and security, it’s the second most important municipal service we as residents provide to ourselves. And our water, that one resource aside from air that we need to live, is in tough shape.

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Three Bays Preservation: Wastewater is everybody's problem

September 30, 2016
By Michael J. Egan

Everyone in Barnstable should be worried about a polluted ecosystem, every teenager, adult and senior citizen - but once they are, what can be done? That’s what I’ve been thinking whenever the concern about the nitrogen crisis in the Three Bays Estuary enters my mind. My worry is, unfortunately, a constant companion.

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Told You So

August 22, 2016
By: Michael J. Egan

If ever there was a sign that West, North and Cotuit Bays are severely wounded from toxic doses of excess nitrogen, look no further than the large, ugly masses of brown algae grasping into the water column across the 1,251-acre estuary, leaving a community and visitors in stunned disbelief.

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Three Bays Preservation: We are one Cape

July 1, 2016
By Michael J. Egan

It’s an uncomfortable conversation everyone should have, even at the dinner table: excess nutrients seeping from septic systems, fertilizers and stormwater runoff overloading our freshwater ponds, rivers and marine estuaries.

Click Here to Read Article ....


Barnstable Clean Water Coalition