Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s officially designated all of Cape Cod Bay as a no discharge area.


  Flags flapped, boats rocked in Sesuit Harbor, clouds rolled overhead as assorted worthies and the local cognoscenti celebrated the Environmental Protection Agency’s official designation of all of Cape Cod Bay as a no discharge area.

“This is just a great day for Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts as well as the town of Dennis,” declared Dennis Harbormaster Terry Clen.

“This is a significant accomplishment,” agreed Congressman William Delahunt. “This effort will have benefits far beyond the lives of all of us who are present here today so when we pass our legacy to the next generation everyone who participated in this effort can say we did something that made a difference.”

It’s been a long haul.

“This began in the mid-1980s with a project called the Buzzards Bay project. My predecessor Gerry Studds was involved in that particular undertaking,” Delahunt noted.

That was followed by the passage of the Clean Vessel Act in the 1990s.

“Gerry had a term for it; the Potty Boat Act,” Delahunt recalled. “But it generated funding for this kind of (project) to succeed.”

Sesuit Harbor provided a perfect setting, the harbor was chock-full of boats, and from this point on there’s no reason for them to dump their sewerage, treated or untreated anywhere in Cape Cod Bay. Behind the assembled multitude on a dock next to the pier sat a plump and happy sewerage pump, awaiting its fill.

“We have a log,” Clen explained later. “So people can log out and the MEP (Massachusetts Environmental Police), EPA, state police and all the harbormasters can get on board and make sure they have a holding tank or porta-potty.”

Pumping out your boat is free, a price you can’t beat.

“This one is 24/7,” Clen said. “It’s user friendly, nobody has to be there, they can pump themselves out.”

Other pumping stations on Cape Cod are in Provincetown, the Sandwich Marina, Rock Harbor in Orleans, Wellfleet Harbor (two) and Barnstable Harbor. Plymouth, Duxbury and Marshfield also have stations on the Bay’s west side. The EPA won’t designate an area a no-discharge zone unless there are sufficient options.

While Cape Cod Bay is 604 square miles the actual no-discharge area is 731.52 square miles. It starts about 3.5 miles north of Race Point and continues west across the Bay, with a little jog, until the line hits just north of Humarock in Marshfield.

This no discharge area will link with a series of similar zones up the coast that cover the shoreline north to Winthrop.

“The goal of the EPA is one no discharge zone from Casco Bay in Maine to the Connecticut Border (with New York), “noted Robert Varney, Regional Administrator of the EPA. “The entire state of Connecticut is now a no discharge zone, as is the entire state of Rhode Island, and the small coastline in New Hampshire.”

There remain breaks in Massachusetts (such as Nantucket Sound) and Maine. On Cape Cod the Buzzards Bay coastline is covered by no discharge rules, as is Waquoit Bay and Harwich’s waters.

“A lot of work has been done,” Varney said. “Over 2,000 miles already have been designated with today’s amount.”

Boston Harbor was designated a no discharge area last week, Salem Sound the week before.

“Cape Cod Bay is the 12th no discharge area in Massachusetts and the largest,” said Leslie Ann McGee, director of the Office of Coastal Zone Management. “We now have a total of 1100 square miles designated in Massachusetts.”

Susan Nickerson, executive director of Nantucket Soundkeeper, wants to make sure the sound is the next no discharge area.

“One thing that comes out of today is momentum and drive that carries over to the other side of Cape Cod,” she declared.

Maggie Geist, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, noted they are still working on controlling pollution from onshore sources and storm runoff.

“It is our sacred trust to ensure that future generations, our children and all species, have a safer environment in which to live,” Geist declared.

And many people live and play here.

“Nearly 140,000 call this area home,” Varney said. “And 3.3 million will use be using it for recreation. Cape Cod Bay has really rebounded in terms of wildlife and is now teeming with wildlife.

The Cape Codder