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EPA Designates Three Bays Area in Barnstable as a "No-Discharge Area"

Release Date: 07/18/2001
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617) 918-1042

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated the Three Bays area in Barnstable a "no-discharge area" today, a designation that makes it illegal for boats to dump treated or untreated sewage into the bay, nearby tidal flats and salt marshes.

As a result of this designation the more than 600 boats home-ported in the bays and the thousands more than come and go are required to use dockside pumpout stations.

Sewage wastes discharged from boats may degrade water quality by introducing microorganisms, nutrients and chemical products into the marine environment. Microorganisms may cause diseases such as hepatitis to people who swim in the water and can contaminate shellfish beds. Nutrients use oxygen in the water lowering oxygen levels as the sewage decays. Oxygen depletion – or hypoxia – can stress fish and other aquatic animals. And chemicals can be toxic to marine and estuarine life and could pose a problem in areas where boats congregate and where there is little tidal flushing.

"The three bays – West Bay, North Bay and Cotuit Bay – are treasured economic and recreational resources and this designation will help ensure that it remains that way," said Ira Leighton, acting regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "We're seeing dramatic water quality improvements all over New England as a result of no-discharge zones and hopefully we will see the same in the Three Bays area which will mean cleaner beaches, cleaner shellfish beds and cleaner boating."

"The designation of the Three Bay estuary and Centerville Harbor as a no-discharge area is an important piece of the town's program to ensure the long-term health and viability of our coastal and estuarine waters," Barnstable Town Manager John Klimm said. "Coupled with the town's efforts at addressing stormwater and wastewater, the NDA will help provide the citizens of Barnstable with good water quality for the enjoyment of fishing, shellfishing and recreational uses for many years into the future."

No-discharge area designations are already in place in Chatham, Wellfleet Harbor, Wareham, Waquoit Bay, Westport, Nantucket Harbor and all of Buzzards Bay. Other no-discharge areas in New England include Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Lake Menphremagog in Vermont and New York; and all marine waters of Rhode Island.

The Barnstable Health Department, supported by the selectmen and local preservation groups, initiated the application process last year protect the safety of local waters.

Before designating the area, EPA made sure there are adequate pumpout facilities available to boaters. Boaters can connect a hose to the boat's sanitation device and empty the contents into an on-shore tank for treatment at a sewage treatment plant, or connect to a pumpout vessel that travels to the boat.

In the past decade, EPA has designated all of Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts and Narraganset Bay in Rhode Island no-discharge areas. On Cape Cod, areas of Wellfleet, Chatham, Harwich and Falmouth gained the designation in the 1990s. Nantucket Harbor was made a no-discharge are in 1992, and Great Salt Pond on Block Island became a no-discharge zone in 1993.

More information on no-discharge areas in New England is available from the website: