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In The News

Barnstable Clean Water Coalition

Find out what is in the news at Barnstable Clean Water Coalition!

(Also, environmentally relevant news)

2017 Articles

Cape Cod Times
By Thomas K. Burgess
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 Mitigation will 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.



Barnstable Clean Water Coalition