Our Water Quality: What NCA Is Doing

NCA determined that water quality was a major factor in determining the direction of the quality of life on Nantucket. This has led us to several initiatives.

First, septic systems have been identified as a major potential source of pollution in the harbors and ponds of Nantucket. NCA closely followed the Town’s early efforts to craft a series of regulations that were passed by the Selectmen in 2005 and 2006. The Town mandated the inspection of each system within the Harbor and Madaket districts with related deadlines and fines for failure to inspect and repair failed systems. As of the end of 2011, substantially all of the systems in the Harbor area and Madaket have been inspected. Repairs on failed systems are on going.

Also, the Town undertook a study of the waters in and around the Island as part of a study conducted by the Commonwealth of all estuaries in Massachusetts. This study was to establish a benchmark to measure the health of each body of water and to establish the total maximum daily load of nutrients permitted. The Town is responsible for taking actions to insure that this measure is not exceeded. NCA supported the study and worked with local officials to complete the study and prepare to implement its recommendations for amelioration of any problems uncovered. The report for the main harbor has been received. The results for Nantucket Harbor compared favorably with the other towns surveyed. The Madaket Harbor report has also been issued and highlighted problems in this area. Discussions between the Town and the Commonwealth concerning remediation in this area are on going.

Currently NCA is working with a number of interested parties on a testing protocol to sample the Nantucket waters over the summer to determine the impact of summer boat traffic on water quality. The Harbor Master has a very aggressive program to control the impact of water-borne visitors, but there has been some question about recreational boating’s impact, and this effort is intended to determine if there is a problem and to devise possible solutions. NCA also co-sponsored the August 2010 “Science in Progress” public assembly with ReMain Nantucket, which presented information and discussions regarding the different scientific studies of Nantucket Harbor waters. Another water quality forum co-sponsored with ReMain Nantucket was held in July 2011 where Brian Howes of SMAST (UMass School of Marine Science and Technology) and Tara Riley, Town Shellfish Biologist, presented the results of the study of the water quality of Nantucket harbors and ponds. These discussions were well attended and well received by the community.