Cape Cod Bay Designated Largest 'No Discharge' Zone in Northeast

With state and local backing, EPA is designating Cape Cod Bay as a "No Discharge" area. This status means that discharges of treated and untreated boat sewage are prohibited within these Massachusetts state waters, including the Towns of Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, Brewster, Dennis, Yarmouth, Barnstable, Sandwich, and Bourne. The designation is for the single largest area of protected coastal waters in the Northeast.

In May, the Mass. Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), in partnership with the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, the Nantucket Soundkeeper, and the towns on the Cape Cod Bay side petitioned EPA to approve the No Discharge designation. Following consideration of the request, and a 30-day public review and comment period, EPA will approve the request to protect these coastal waters from boat sewage.

"Cape Cod is cherished by hundreds of thousands of people throughout New England and beyond," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Putting this important protection in place will help safeguard people's enjoyment of this special, beautiful place. Achieving this designation for Cape Cod Bay is a major milestone in EPA's effort to protect the entire New England coastline from boat sewage -- these Cape communities are leading the way nationally about how we can better protect our environment."

To qualify for a No Discharge designation, the applicant must show there are enough "pumpout" facilities where boaters can get their sewage holding tanks pumped out. This particular area has an estimated 7,000 boats, of which only 3,590 are large enough to have a head or toilet on board. There are a total of eight pumpout facilities in the proposed area, five fixed shore-based facilities and three pumpout boats. In addition, there are two pending pumpout facilities which should be operational in the summer of 2008. There are approximately 19 marinas, 14 yacht, and five public landings and piers; and 42 beaches in the area.

Boat sewage can lead to health problems for swimmers, closed shellfish beds, and the overall degradation of marine habitats.

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod, the Nantucket Soundkeeper and MA Coastal Zone Management (MA CZM) initiated the No Discharge Area designation process in the summer of 2007 to safeguard local marine resources. Working together, the groups held informal meetings in the area where staff presented an overview of the proposed area for designation, outlined the designation process, described the beneficial environmental impacts of establishing the No Discharge Area and received input from the public.

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