The network of active cranberry bogs at the headwaters of the Marstons Mills River is home to a significant amount of groundwater upwelling. Nutrients from upgradient septic systems, fertilizers, and stormwater runoff rise to the surface of the bogs and flow into the Marstons Mills River. From the bogs, the river carries nutrients downstream to the Three Bays estuary in less than eight hours. These conditions provide a unique opportunity to test various nutrient reduction strategies in an approach that could have an immediate impact on the health of the estuary.

BCWC’s partners for these projects include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( US EPA) Office of Research and Development, EPA Region 1, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service and Mt. Holyoke College .

For this pilot project, BCWC is installing a woodchip-based bioreactor in one of the bog’s existing drainage ditches Bioreactors are systems that work by providing denitrifying bacteria a food source (the carbon from woodchips) and allowing nitrogen rich water to flow through. The goal of this project is to learn as much information as we can about how this a bioreactor will change the properties of the water moving through it in order to use this system on a larger scale project.. These bacteria use nitrogen instead of oxygen to breathe, so water that has flowed through the bioreactor should have a lower level of nitrogen. Monitoring will be crucial for determining whether this system is able to reduce nitrogen levels without negative side-effects. If successful, the bioreactor can be implemented in other areas of this bog system and in cranberry bogs across Cape Cod. Water throughout the length of the bioreactor will be sampled or monitored for all nitrogen species, dissolved organic carbon, sulfates, arsenic, iron, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and pH. BCWC plans to install the bioreactor in late spring 2020 and monitor the system for two years.


Barnstable Clean Water Coalition