Buzzards Bay Nitrogen Pollution Level Steady in 2015
August 3, 2016
Harmful nitrogen pollution in Buzzards Bay did not get worse in 2015 for the first time in over a decade, reflecting an encouraging pause in the decline of the health of local harbors, coves and tidal rivers across the South Coast and Cape Cod’s western shore, according to the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s latest State of Buzzards Bay report.
After falling at a dramatic rate of 3 points every 4 years since 2003—when the Coalition released its first State of Buzzards Bay report—the score for nitrogen pollution score leveled off in 2015.
“Since 2003, we have documented troubling trends in the health of Buzzards Bay. No factor has continued to suppress Bay health and restoration efforts more than nitrogen pollution,” said Buzzards Bay Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “But local efforts to clean up nitrogen pollution from septic systems and sewer plants, as well as to prevent new sources of pollution, may be beginning to stop these declines.”
Nitrogen pollution is the biggest threat facing the health of Buzzards Bay. Data collected through the Coalition’s Baywatchers monitoring program show that more than half of the Bay’s harbors, coves, and tidal rivers suffer from nitrogen pollution—from West Falmouth Harbor all the way to the Westport Rivers. When water is polluted with nitrogen, it becomes cloudy and murky with algae, and fish, shellfish and eelgrass begin to disappear.
The State of Buzzards Bay uses nine different indicators to track the health of Buzzards Bay. These indicators are grouped into three categories: Pollution, Watershed Health, and Living Resources. Overall, Buzzards Bay received a score of 45 out of 100.
Pollution (Nitrogen, Bacteria, Toxics): All 3 pollution indicators remained steady in the 2015 State of the Bay. Towns across the South Coast and Cape Cod are taking steps to reduce nitrogen pollution, and those actions are working to stop the Bay’s decline. However, the bacteria and toxics scores have stagnated after steady improvement in past reports.
Watershed Health (Wetlands, Forests, Stream Buffers): Across the region, proactive land conservation and permitting at the local level led to another year of stability in the scores for wetlands, forests and stream buffers. These important habitats filter out nitrogen pollution and protect clean water in Buzzards Bay.
Living Resources (Eelgrass, Bay Scallops, River Herring): Overall, the score for eelgrass did not change in 2015, reflecting the reductions in nitrogen pollution, which impacts this underwater habitat. Bay scallops and river herring populations remain dangerously low in Buzzards Bay after stunning declines over the last several decades.
To create the State of the Bay report, the Buzzards Bay Coalition collaborates with scientists and land use experts to examine the best-available current and historical data. Every four years, the Coalition assesses these same nine indicators as a consistent method for tracking progress and pollution over time.
To learn more and download the report, CLICK HERE