For Immediate Release - July 20, 2012

Patrick-Murray Administration Secures No Discharge Area Designation for Cape Cod and Islands Coastal Waters

Boat waste discharge is now banned in virtually all state coastal waters

Map of Cape and Islands NDA
Map of state’s protected waters

BOSTON – Friday, July 20, 2012 – Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan today announced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the  designation of state waters south of Cape Cod and surrounding Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard as a No Discharge Area (NDA).

With the approval of the South Cape Cod and Islands NDA, boats are prohibited from dumping sewage along more than 95 percent of state coastal waters.

“With the help of our community leaders and federal partners, the dream of clean coastal waters up and down the Massachusetts coastline is now a reality, protecting our precious marine habitats and recreational areas for years to come,” said Governor Deval Patrick.

In March, Secretary Sullivan submitted the South Cape Cod and Islands NDA application through the state's Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), capping five years of extensive work by CZM and 14 communities to ensure the necessary waste pumpout facilities are available for boaters to use.

The 14 communities are: Aquinnah, Chilmark, West Tisbury, Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Falmouth, Mashpee, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Chatham and Nantucket.

"Our environment and economies depend on safe and productive coastline," said Secretary Sullivan. “With this designation, nearly all of our coastal waters are protected from boat pollution, providing clean resources for tourism and recreational activities like swimming and fishing and habitat for marine life.”

NDAs protect water quality and aquatic life from pathogens, nutrients and chemical products contained in discharged sewage and also reduce the risk of human illness, making it safer to swim, boat, fish and eat shellfish from protected waters. NDAs can also help reduce the growth of harmful algae that occurs due to high nutrient levels in sewage discharge and protect commercial clam fishing flats.

“EPA applauds each and every community and the local and state officials, who have worked for a long time to protect coastal water quality and ensure a cleaner and healthier environment,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

Clean coastal waters are important for Cape Cod and the Islands, with recreation and tourism the cornerstone of these coastal economies. This area includes 143 bathing beaches covering more than 26 miles of shoreline. In addition to roughly 15,000 resident vessels, an estimated 700 to 800 visiting recreational boats regularly travel these waters during the summer.

Shellfishing is another important commercial and recreational activity in the area, with bay scallops, soft-shell clams, surf clams, blue mussels, oysters and quahogs harvested in these waters. The value of recreational shellfish harvesting alone is more than $7 million each year in Barnstable County. These and other commercial and recreational pursuits will all benefit from the cleaner waters that will come from designating the area as a no-dumping zone for boat sewage.

This designation comes on the heels of the announcement in June of the approval for the Mount Hope Bay NDA, which encompasses nine square miles, including the Taunton River up to the Center/Elm Street Bridge on the border of Dighton and Berkley, as well as the Lee and Cole Rivers up to their respective Route 6 bridges.

The South Cape Cod and Islands NDA is home to commercial ferry operations that serve as a lifeline to the Islands and the towns of Nantucket, Chilmark, West Tisbury, Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, Chilmark, Aquinnah and Edgartown. The ferry operators have been working closely with state and local government and have made substantial progress retrofitting vessels, building shoreside pumpout infrastructure and ensuring adequate capacity and conditions so that boat waste can be processed by municipal wastewater treatment plants.

In recognition of this practical reality, this designation includes two temporary exclusions where discharge of treated boat sewage will still be allowed. Any waste released by commercial vessels in these temporary exclusions must be treated by marine sanitation devices. CZM anticipates the designation of these temporary exclusions as no discharge by 2016.

There are now 29 boat sewage pumpout facilities in accessible locations throughout the area to make compliance with the no discharge requirements convenient for boaters. Several of the 14 coastal communities have at one time received reimbursement for 75 percent of the cost of purchasing and operating their pumpout facilities via the Commonwealth’s Clean Vessel Act Program, administered by the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Sportfish Restoration Program.

"This is the welcome culmination of years of effort, piece by piece, to protect the Massachusetts coast and coastal waterways," said Sen. Dan Wolf. "I congratulate everyone involved, especially Secretary Sullivan, for clearing the last obstacles so that this important environmental protection can apply throughout our state."

“The Massachusetts approach to designating NDAs has been to work hand-in-hand with our cities and towns, harbormasters, environmental groups, marinas, and others,” said Bruce Carlise, CZM Director. “I would like to thank everyone who has helped make the NDAs that now cover our coastline a reality. It has been a privilege working with all of these people who are so committed to keeping our coastal waters clean.”

Under the Clean Water Act, a body of water can be designated as an NDA if local, state and federal authorities determine it is ecologically and recreationally important enough to merit protection above and beyond that provided by existing state and federal laws. In Massachusetts, CZM works closely with communities and EPA to establish NDAs as part of a comprehensive regional water quality approach.

Due to efforts by the Patrick-Murray Administration, there are now NDAs along almost the entire Massachusetts coast. These 16 NDAs have been previously designated:

  • Outer Cape Cod (the coastal waters from Provincetown to Chatham, including Nauset Harbor)
  • Upper North Shore (the coastal waters of Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, Ipswich, Rowley, Newbury, Newburyport, Salisbury [including the Merrimack River in Amesbury], West Newbury, Merrimac, Groveland, North Andover, Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence)
  • Pleasant Bay (Brewster, Orleans, Harwich and Chatham) and Chatham Harbor
  • The coastal waters of Revere, Saugus, Lynn, Nahant and Swampscott, including the Pines and Saugus Rivers
  • All of Cape Cod Bay
  • Boston Harbor (the coastal waters of Winthrop, Chelsea, Everett, Boston, Quincy, Milton, Weymouth, Braintree, Hingham and Hull, including the Charles River in Watertown, Newton and Cambridge)
  • Salem Sound (the coastal waters of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Beverly, Danvers, Salem and Marblehead)
  • The coastal waters of Cohasset, Scituate and Marshfield
  • The coastal waters of Plymouth, Kingston and Duxbury
  • All of Buzzards Bay
  • Waquoit Bay in Falmouth
  • The coastal waters of Harwich
  • Three Bays/Centerville Harbor in Barnstable
  • Stage Harbor in Chatham
  • The coastal waters of Nantucket from Muskeget Island to Great Point, including Nantucket Harbor
  • Mount Hope Bay

For more information on No Discharge Areas in New England, please visit: and For more on boat sewage pumpout locations throughout Massachusetts coastal waters, see:

CZM is the agency within EEA charged with protecting Massachusetts’ approximately 1,500-mile coast. Through educational and regulatory programs, CZM seeks to balance human uses of the coastal zone with the need to protect fragile marine resources. The agency’s work includes helping coastal communities anticipate and plan for sea level rise and other effects of climate change, working with cities and towns and the federal government to develop boat sewage no-discharge areas, and partnering with communities and other organizations to restore coastal and aquatic habitats.

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