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EPA Designates Buzzards Bay as "No Discharge Area" for Boaters; Pollution Grants Also Announced for New Bedford and Wareham

Release Date: 08/04/2000
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008)

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the approval of Buzzards Bay as a "No Discharge Area," a designation that makes it illegal for boaters to discharge treated or untreated sewage from their vessels into bay waters.

Encompassing 210 square miles in 11 coastal communities, the designation is the largest no-discharge zone approved to date in Massachusetts and among the largest in New England.

Additional Information
"No Discharge Areas" website

The approval means that 13,000 boats homeported in the bay - as well as visiting boats - must now use "pumpout" facilities to discharge their septage waste. Boat sewage can be a significant source of pollution in marine areas, especially in shallow embayments with high boat densities.

"Buzzards Bay is a treasured economic and recreational resource and this designation will help ensure that it remains that way," said Mindy S. Lubber, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office, who announced the approval aboard the fishing schooner, Ernestina, at the State Pier in New Bedford. "We're seeing dramatic water quality improvements all over New England as a result of no-discharge zones and soon we can expect the same in Buzzards Bay, which will mean cleaner beaches, cleaner shellfish beds and cleaner boating."

Buzzards Bay's shellfishing industry is the largest in the state, with 5.2 million pounds and $3.8 million of commercial landings in 1999.

The no-discharge designation, which extends from Gosnold in the east to Westport in the west, applies to all bay waters, including all marine waters three miles from shore. Boaters that discharge their septage waste illegally could be subject to penalties and fines.

The designation is a major milestone in the Commonwealth's efforts to expand no-discharge zones to other parts of the state. No discharge designations are already in place in Chatham, Wellfleet Harbor, Wareham, Harwich, Waquoit Bay, Westport and Nantucket Harbor.

"Through the hard work of the Buzzards Bay Action Committee and our state and federal environmental agencies, we have made considerable improvements in the water quality within Buzzards Bay," said Robert Durand, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. "Declaring the bay a No Discharge Area is one more step in our plan to build upon these improvements. Ultimately, we plan to develop community support to make all of coastal Massachusetts a No-Discharge Area."

The Buzzards Bay Action Committee initiated the designation process with an application to EPA last year. The 11 communities surrounding the bay all supported the application.

Before granting such a status, EPA must make sure there are enough pumpout facilities available so that boaters are not inconvenienced by the new rules. There are currently 30 pumpout stations operating in the bay, including 16 fixed facilities at marinas and yacht clubs,13 mobile pumpout boats and one pumpout cart.

"The Buzzards Bay Action Committee is very pleased that EOEA and EPA concur with the designation of Buzzards Bay as a boat No Discharge area, as this was a recommendation in the Buzzards Bay Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan," said Len Gonsalves, executive director of the Buzzards Bay Action Committee. "The designation is a significant step in helping to educate the boating public about preserving and restoring Buzzards Bay."

The designation is the latest of many actions by a coalition of federal, state and local officials to improve Buzzards Bay's water quality. Since beginning that effort in 1992 - with the formal approval of the CCMP by EPA Administrator William Reilly - the region has successfully reopened nearly half of the 15,000 acres of shellfish beds that had been permanently closed.

EPA and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs also announced today they will soon be awarding $420,000 of pollution control grants to fund a boat waste oil recovery project in New Bedford and a stormwater abatement project in Wareham. The grants are funded from EPA's Nonpoint Source Program.

Among the grants is $147,000 to the Buzzards Bay Project for the construction of a boat waste oil recovery facility in New Bedford Harbor. The facility, would separate out used waste oil from bilge water, is slated to be built next year. It would service commercial fishing boats and other commercial vessels. The Bay Project estimates that the facility will recover 30,000 gallons of used fuel oil in its first year of operation.

A second nonpoint grant - for $273,000 - will be awarded later this year to the Town of Wareham for a stormwater abatement project aimed at improving water quality in Onset Bay. The project will focus on seven stormwater problem areas in Onset Village upstream of the bay.