Dumping Banned in Harwich Ports


Saquatucket- Larry Chandler, Pumpout Boat operator demonstrates one of two marine holding tank pumpout boats operated by the Harbormaster Department.The boats are part of a marine sewage transfer system required to maintain the new FNDA. Tom Leach photo.

In August, town's harbors become no-discharge areas.

HARWICH PORT - Boat owners who still use the three Harwich Port harbors as toilets for their boats' waste will soon have to change their ways.

Allen, Wychmere and Sequatucket harbors, which front on Nantucket Sound, will become a federally designated no-discharge area later this summer. The designation prohibits the dumping of boat sewage into the harbors or their tributaries.

It will require boat owners to empty their vessels' waste into approved onshore pump-out facilities.

"This is so important because it gets boaters swinging with coastal pollution prevention," said Harwich Harbor Master Tom Leach. He said the issue of harbor pollution was driven home this week when the state had to close Wychmere and Allen harbors to shellfishing due to high coliform bacteria levels.

The designation, which will go into effect in August, makes Harwich the seventh federal no-discharge area in the state. It is the fifth area on Cape Cod and the islands to earn the label.

Stage Harbor in Chatham was the last area to become a no-discharge zone. State and federal officials joined local representatives at the harbor last June for a celebration of the event. Previously set aside as no-discharge sites were Wellfleet and Nantucket harbors, and Waquoit Bay.

The Harwich Port harbors are already a voluntary no-discharge zone, having been designated as such by Harwich selectmen in 1995. But Harwich Harbor Master Tom Leach pressed for more stringent controls and has been working with the town's shellfish and marine water quality advisory committee for the past two years to obtain the federal designation.

They have been actively consulting with the state Coastal Zone Management and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. "It's a big, long process," Leach said. As part of the 80-page application process, Harwich had to prove it had the appropriate pump-out facilities for boats coming into its harbors. Harwich's harbor pollution problems were highlighted last year in a Cape Cod Commission study of Harwich's embayments. The report found the three Harwich Port harbors were recipients of septic system and runoff pollution upstream. "We really don't need boaters contributing to that," Leach said.

He said the harbors are frequently visited by yachts that have so-called macerator-chlorinater systems, which grind up waste, treat it with chlorine and spit it into the water. Even boats equipped with that system will be prohibited from emptying waste in the harbors once the designation takes effect.

The town has two pump-out boats that will travel from harbor to harbor on demand. The self-serve pump-out station at the Saquatucket Harbor fuel dock will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Smaller pump-out carts will also be available at town yacht clubs and boat yards, which the town will empty as needed. For more information on the Harwich designation, contact the harbor master's Web site at www.capecod.net/harbormaster.

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