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MMA Innovation Award winner, From The Beacon, February 2019
The four Cape Cod communities in the Pleasant Bay watershed – Brewster, Chatham, Harwich and Orleans – created an intermunicipal agreement that led to approval of a first-of-its-kind state watershed permit from the Department of Environmental Protection.
The permit will allow the towns to use nontraditional technologies to remove nitrogen from water and receive nitrogen removal credits from MassDEP, while working collaboratively to each address each municipality’s contribution to nitrogen levels in the the bay.
Since The Beacon first reported on the effort and the final application documents were filed with MassDEP last summer, the Pleasant Bay Alliance – created by the four towns in 1998 – received a $250,000 award from the Southeast New England Estuaries Project Watersheds Program to fund implementation activities, according to the alliance’s coordinator and project leader, Carol Ridley.
“These are activities taking place in each of the four towns and are intended to not only assist the towns in their efforts, but to act as models for other communities to learn from,” Ridley said.
Each town and the alliance also received a 2018 Environmental Merit Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England Regional office for their work on obtaining the permit.
Each town had already worked on individual plans to address its share of nitrogen pollution entering the bay. The Pleasant Bay Alliance took those four plans, identified gaps and overlaps, and created a coordinated, cost-effective and faster way to reach collective goals based on the intermunicipal watershed permit.
A study completed by the Massachusetts Estuaries Project, in coordination with Pleasant Bay Alliance, concluded that approximately 40,000 pounds of nitrogen enters the bay each day, and that it must be cut by 36 percent to meet regulatory thresholds set by the MassDEP.
Chatham is implementing a 30-year wastewater management plan, completed in 2009, which calls for sewering almost the entire community.
Brewster adopted “fertigation” for its two 18-hole municipal golf courses, capturing nitrogen-rich irrigation water in deep wells and reusing it for irrigation, allowing the town to reduce the amount of fertilizer used on the courses. Lawn and golf course fertilization accounts for 16 percent of the nitrogen flowing into the bay, according to the Estuaries Project analysis.
Orleans plans to continue expanding its shellfish aquaculture pilot project, which won an MMA Innovation Award in 2018. Entering its third year in Lonnie’s Pond, which feeds into the bay, the project uses 100 floating bags that hold an average of 5,000 oysters and hard-shelled clams that consume nitrogen.
Harwich entered into an intermunicipal agreement with Chatham to use its wastewater treatment facility, widened the Muddy Creek inlet to increase nitrogen flushing, and plans to institute a fertilizer control program.