Cape Cod Bay Seeks "No Discharge" Designation to Stem Boat Pollution

EPA is reviewing a proposal from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the designation of Cape Cod Bay and the surrounding town waters of Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, Brewster, Dennis, Yarmouth, Barnstable, Sandwich, and Bourne as a “No Discharge Area.” If the proposal is approved, discharges of treated and untreated boat sewage would be prohibited within the town boundaries and state waters.

The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (MA CZM) has petitioned EPA to approve the No Discharge designation. EPA has in turn published the request in the Federal Register and will accept public comments on the proposal until June 23, 2008.

“Cape Cod and Cape Cod Bay are both a cherished summer playground of Massachusetts. To designate these waters as a no-discharge area would be an important step towards improving coastal water quality and the recreational enjoyment of many thousands of New Englanders,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

To qualify for a No Discharge Area designation, the applicant must demonstrate that there are enough “pumpout” facilities where boaters can get their sewage holding tanks pumped out. This particular area has an estimated 3,250 boats, of which only 2,010 are large enough to have a head or toilet on board. There are a total of seven pumpout facilities in the proposed area and two pending pumpout facilities.

Cape Cod Bay is recognized as an important resource state-wide and nationally. In 1974, The Massachusetts Oceans Sanctuaries Act recognized Cape Cod Bay as an important ocean sanctuary. Four state-recognized Areas of Critical Environmental Concern are on within Cape Cod Bay. In 1995, Cape Cod Bay was designated an Estuary of National Significance as part of the Massachusetts Bays Program. Cape Cod Bay also contains federally designated Critical Habit for rare and endangered species. Cape Cod Bay has over 390 public beaches and there are an estimated 400,000 acres of shellfish growing areas between Provincetown and the Back River in Hull.

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