In The News
In The News
Find out what is in the news at Barnstable Clean Water Coalition!
(Also, environmentally relevant news)
The Falmouth Enterprise
By STEVEN WITHROW
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.
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.
New York Times
By NADJA POPOVICH, LIVIA ALBECK-RIPKA and KENDRA PIERRE-LOUIS
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about APCC’s herring count program and to see herring count results, visit apcc.org/herring.
Cape Cod Times
By Chris Kilian
Posted Oct 9, 2019 at 3:00 AM
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
By Jack Edmonston
Posted Sep 26, 2019 at 3:00 AM
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.
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].
Cape Cod Times
By Cynthia McCormick
Posted Sep 25, 2019 at 6:33 PM
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.
Posted Aug 26, 2019 at 11:43 AM
BARNSTABLE AT WORK
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.
Cape Cod Times
By Tanner Stening
Posted Aug 14, 2019 at 9:11 PM
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
By Doug Fraser
Posted Aug 12, 2019 at 9:29 PM
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
By Tanner Stening
Posted Aug 7, 2019 at 7:20 PM
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.
July 26, 2019
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.
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)
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.
Posted Jul 25, 2019 at 2:58 PM
‘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 https://youtu.be/BBe675pb8A8, 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 www.apcc.org/threebays.
Cape Cod Times
By Doug Fraser
Posted Jul 1, 2019 at 8:15 PM
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.
By EVE ZUCKOFF
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. CREDIT EVE ZUCKOFF
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. CREDIT EVE ZUCKOFF
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.”
Cape Cod Times
By Geoff Spillane
Posted Jun 26, 2019 at 6:38 PM
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
By Doug Fraser
Posted Jun 24, 2019 at 6:19 PM
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 apcc.org/cyano.
— Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.
By SAM HOUGHTON
Jun 20, 2019
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 Geoff Spillane
Posted Aug 6, 2019 at 8:22 PM
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.
“It is state-of-the-art,” O’Neil said. “There’s not another one like it in the state.”
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
By Doug Fraser
Posted May 4, 2019 at 8:30 PM
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.
“Much of it is a foot or more of anoxic muck,” said Eric Karplus, founder of Science Wares of Falmouth, who designed and built the coring equipment. “There’s no living plant and only an occasional shellfish.”
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.
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 Association, North and South Rivers Watershed Association, Jones River Watershed Association, Six Ponds Improvement Association, Herring Ponds Watershed Association, Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and Save the Bay - Narragansett Bay.
For more information about the Watershed Action Alliance, contact Dorie Stolley at WAAcoordinator@nsrwa.org, or visit http://watershedaction.org/.
Wicked Local - Watershed Action Alliance event addresses water issues.
To view any of the presentations click here.
By Bronwen Howells Walsh
Posted Aug 7, 2019 at 9:03 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.
Cape Cod Times
By Brian Bushard
I&M Staff Writer
Posted Apr 7, 2019 at 10:25 PM
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.”
Cape Media News
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.
Cape Cod Times
By Carlos R. Munoz
Posted 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
- Current: 589
- 2005-2006: 568
- Current: 213*
- 2013: 277
*Number could rise pending further tissue testing.
- Current: 129
- 2005-2006: 190
Sources: NOAA, FWC.
Cape Cod Times
By Geoff Spillane
Posted Jan 4, 2019 at 7:36 PM
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
By Geoff Spillane
Posted Jan 2, 2019 at 8:09 PM
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.”