- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for MassDEP Seeks Public Comments on Cleanup Plan to Restore the Health of Falmouth Inner Harbor, Waquoit Bay and Megansett-Squeteague Harbors Estuarine Systems on Cape Cod
Joseph Ferson, Public Affairs Office
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) will hold a public meeting on Thursday, December 19, 2019, seeking comments on a draft document identifying the need to limit and reduce the nutrient nitrogen in the coastal waters of Falmouth Inner Harbor, Waquoit Bay, and Megansett-Squeteague Harbors Estuarine Systems. The meeting begins at 2:30 p.m. in the Selectman’s Meeting Room Falmouth Town Hall at 59 Town Hall Square, Falmouth.
The restoration plans for these estuary systems, formulated by MassDEP and the University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST), is proposed as part of a comprehensive, collaborative project intended to improve estuarine water quality in 70 embayments along the southeastern Massachusetts coastline.
These coastal water body systems are currently impaired because of excess nutrients, mainly nitrogen, which chokes water bodies with harmful algae, depletes oxygen for fish and shellfish populations, destroys critical eelgrass beds needed for sustaining marine life and reduces swimming, fishing and boating opportunities throughout these local waters.
At the public meeting, MassDEP staff will present a draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for limiting nitrogen to the amounts that the water bodies can absorb without violating water quality standards and impairing uses such as fishing and recreational activities. The plan calls for reducing watershed sources of nitrogen by up to 80 percent. Most of the reductions will be from better treatment and handling of wastewater, but nitrogen from storm water and fertilizer use should also be controlled wherever possible.
The major components of this effort included three years of chemical, physical, and biological studies within the Falmouth Inner Harbor, Waquoit Bay, and Megansett-Squeteague Harbors estuarine systems, and the use of a dynamic water quality model to determine the present sources of nitrogen and the loading rates, the nitrogen concentrations that will result in the restoration and protection of the embayment, and the target nitrogen loading rates that will achieve those protective concentrations. This watershed modeling and TMDL analysis will serve as a planning tool for communities to implement new comprehensive wastewater management strategies in order to improve estuarine water quality.
Copies of MassDEP Draft TMDL Reports for Total Nitrogen and a further explanation of the TMDL Program are available here.
The Massachusetts Estuaries Project Final Technical Report for Falmouth Inner Harbor, Waquoit Bay, and Megansett-Squeteague Harbors Estuarine Systems on which the TMDLs were based, is available here.
The public comment period ends at 5 p.m., January 21, 2020. Written comments can be submitted to: Barbara Kickham, Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Watershed Management, 8 New Bond Street, Worcester, MA 01606. Electronic format comments should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on the Massachusetts Estuaries Project can be found here.