Coastal Zone Management seeks federal no-discharge zone for Nantucket Sound
Within this zone, boats are prohibited from emptying their sewage and grey water holding tanks in Nantucket Sound
By Peter B. Brace, Nantucket Independent
Nantucket's Marine & Coastal Resources Department prides itself on the establishment of a threemile federal no-discharge zone radiating outward from the island's shores.
Within this zone, boats are prohibited from emptying their sewage and grey water holding tanks in Nantucket Sound and must have their tanks pumped out when in Nantucket Harbor. In recent years, the town regularly pumped more than 120,000 gallons of sewage from boat holding tanks.
Beyond the three-mile limit, however, boats can do what they like.
Marine Superintendent and Harbormaster Dave Fronzuto is exploring the possibility of having the ferries that service Nantucket pump out their holding tanks either at their homeport piers or on Nantucket.
"It is perfectly legal to do that, to dump in the federal waters," said Fronzuto. "[The Massachusetts Office of] Coastal Zone Management is actually meeting with Congressman Bill Delahunt's office to see if there is some merit to making this a federal no-discharge zone in Nantucket Sound."
The issue arose from CZM's discussions with whale viewing charter boat operators whose vessels regularly dump their sewage into Cape Cod Bay, said Fronzuto.
Currently, CZM is exploring the logistics and economics of installing pump-out stations in several harbors.
"We are just in the beginning stages of identifying the structural and financial needs for siting commercial pumpouts in Provincetown, Barnstable Harbor, Boston, and Gloucester," said CZM's No-Discharge Area Coordinator Todd Callaghan in an email discussion that included Fronzuto in mid-May. "It would appear that we should start thinking about one in Hyannis as well."
Fronzuto is unsure whether the Steamship Authority, Hy-Line and Freedom Cruises vessels would have time to pump out their holding tanks in what is essentially a 30- to 35- minute or less turnaround at their respective Nantucket terminals, but is quite certain pumping out the tanks is far better than dumping the sewage into Nantucket Sound.
"We're really starting the discussion as to whether the same thing should happen in Barnstable, Woods Hole, Vineyard Haven and Nantucket," he said.
Fronzuto announced this effort at the June 19 Shellfish & Harbor Advisory Board meeting after reporting to the board on a separate but likely related issue pertaining to water quality sampling in Nantucket Sound by several coastal towns, including Nantucket.
To learn the true quality of the water in Nantucket Sound, UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine and Science Technology (SMAST) is coordinating simultaneous water quality sampling twice a month in conjunction with the Martha's Vineyard Commission, the Nantucket Marine Department and the nonprofit environmental group Nantucket Soundkeeper in the towns of Nantucket, Oak Bluffs, Mashpee and the Three Bays/Centerville Harbor area of Barnstable (including Hyannis) to get a clear picture of pollution in the Sound.
"All of those agencies are sampling every two weeks and they're sampling at the same state of the tide," said Fronzuto. "If it's high tide, they're sampling one hour after high tide on the same day, so you get a snapshot of the whole place on the same day."
Although CZM's endeavor to put pump-out stations at each ferry terminal around the Cape and Islands did arise independently of SMAST's water quality testing, Fronzuto said that data collected from the UMass Dartmouth program would likely help in getting the rest of Nantucket Sound declared a federal nodischarge zone.
"They're [SMAST] using this to confirm that the actual Sound water is beginning to deteriorate," said Fronzuto.