Scope of the Problem

In Buzzards Bay, there are roughly 6,000 acres of shellfish growing areas indefinitely closed to shellfishing, another 6,000 acres closed after 0.2 inches or more of rain, and roughly 3,000 acres seasonally closed (Fig. 1). Some of these closures the mandatory prohibitions around sewage facility outfalls, some are precauitionary closures around marinas or dense morring areas, but a large portion of these closures are the result of bacterial contamination from stormwater discharges (Fig. 2). Some of these stormwater discharges also contribute nutrients to these embayments, many of which are nitrogen impaired and require a TMDL. Many of these discharges of concern are not regulated under existing stormwater permits and regulations. The elimination of illicit discharges to stormwater networks and the treatment of stormwater discharges conveying non-point sources of pollution will help reduce these impairments. These actions can only be taken if problem discharges can be identified and prioritized.

Goals of the Program

The identification of problem discharges and the development of solutions must begin with monitoring stormwater discharges and mapping stormwater networks for nutrients and bacteria. The BBAC, through its establishment of the Buzzards Bay Stormwater Collaborative, will help identify problem stormwater discharges, identify pollution sources, and gather the kinds of information necessary to prioritize action to reduce stormwater pollution and ultimately re-open shellfish beds.

Late in 2015, the U.S. EPA, through its Healthy Communities grant program, awarded the Buzzards Bay Action Committee $200,000 to launch the Buzzards Bay Stormwater Collaborative. This grant will allow the five municipalities within the Collaborative to begin testing stormwater discharges in coastal waters that are closed to shellfishing because of high bacterial levels. The initiative, which will involve participation from the public works departments in the Towns of Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, and Wareham, will map stormwater networks and monitor stormwater discharges contributing to shellfish bed closures and other nutrient and pathogen impairments in Buzzards Bay and its surrounding watershed. The collaborative, with assistance from project partners like the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program and the Buzzards Bay Coalition, look to combine resources among the partners in a cost-effective way, to meet local goals of improving water quality and managing stormwater systems. The Buzzards Bay NEP will be providing technical assistance in developing and managing the GIS database and in developing and implementing the monitoring program. The Buzzards Bay NEP will also develop software apps and web applications to allow the public to submit photographs and information about stormwater network problems. The Coalition will help get the word out to its members and the public about this crowdsourcing effort.