Don’t Love that Dirty Water!

Photo: The Patriot Ledger, August 7, 1996

Remember the old Standells’ 1965 tune Dirty Water, a tongue-in-cheek ode to the (then) filthy Charles River?  Well, 30 years and a ton of hard work later, Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld showed just how clean the Charles had become by leaping (off-script) into the chilly brown waters of the river. The message: The Charles was now safe for swimming. The river went from a Grade D to a Grade B, proving that the decades of work cleaning up the sources of pollution was well worth the battle.

Fast forward to August 30, 2022, where another Grade D waterway—Shoestring Bay—is in desperate need of a cleanup.  On that day the founder of Save Our Shoestring joined an environmental specialist from the town of Barnstable to inspect the putrid waters of Shoestring Bay by kayak. Her opinion: the quality of the water is so poor that “if there were a sandy beach area on any of the shorelines, the Department of Health would likely deem that beach closed to swimming.”  

The Town of Barnstable has begun sewering in several villages but its timetable for sewering our part of Cotuit is 20+ years, if ever.  Decisive action is needed now!

  1. Halt all new, replacement, and expansion of Title 5 systems within 100 yards of any Nitrogen Sensitive Areas * [NSA].  
  2. Require that all new septic systems installed within NSAs be High Performance Innovative Alternative Septic System (HPIA) technologies. Follow the lead of Tisbury, on Martha’s Vineyard, which has moved ahead with regulations to that effect.
  3. Fast-track the certification of HPIAs for Barnstable residents’ use.
  4. Establish a $10,000 grant (income-verified requirements) for homeowners to convert to HPIA technologies and make the remaining cost eligible for a low-interest loan paid back on the property tax bill over 20 years.

Our dirty water is no joke. It’s not swimmable. It’s barely fishable or kayakable! Let’s clean it up before it’s too late. 

* These areas are already well-defined within the Barnstable CWMP and within FINAL Popponesset Bay Total Maximum Daily Loads for Total Nitrogen (Report # 96-TMDL-4 Control #217.0)

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