The Brewster Ponds Coalition participated in the Brewster Chamber of Commerce’s 2024 “Eco Expo” at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History on February 20, during school vacation week. We helped celebrate the ecological and economic benefits of “going green," highlighting the work that BPC does in protecting and improving the health of Brewster's ponds through science, education and advocacy. A fun time was had by adults and children alike.
Left photo above: BPC representatives Marietta Nilson, Susan Bridges, Kristi Dondlinger, Nancy Ortiz, and Marcia Kelb as "Shelly the Turtle." Right photo above: Shelly the Turtle engaging a young visitor during the Eco Expo.
Massachusetts’ New Title 5 Septic System and Watershed Permit Regulations:
How Do They Effect Brewster?
In July 2023, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MASS DEP) issued changes to Title 5 regulations and developed new watershed regulations for areas on Cape Cod that are nitrogen sensitive. Since then, the Town of Brewster has been proactive in responding to the new regulations. To read more and understand how Brewster residents are impacted, click here.
Check out these additional resources to stay informed:
Tuesday, February 20, 2024
11 AM - 3 PM
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
869 Main Street, Brewster
The Eco Expo is a mini-trade show featuring Brewster Chamber of Commerce businesses and organizations that focus on ecological as well as economic sustainability. The event, held at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, will occur during the Brewster schools' February vacation week. The BPC will once again have an informational table and activity for children, as well as a visit from "Shelly the Turtle!"
The Eco Expo is free with admission to the museum, so you can enjoy not only this fun event but also all the museum's exhibits and attractions. For more information, visit the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History website.
Pictured above at Eco Expo 2023 are visitors and Shelly the Turtle.
"Critter Corner" is planned to be a quarterly column that highlights different species or species groups in and around Brewster ponds. Here is the first article by Ron Essig, BPC Board member and Citizen Science Team Coordinator.
The first critters being featured in this new column are freshwater mussels - a group of at least six species. The most common is the Eastern Elliptio seen in the photograph below that inhabit shallow water and can be washed onto the shore after strong winds and storms. The least common are the Eastern Pondmussel and the Tidewater Mucket that are state listed species of concern. Other species that might be in Brewster ponds are the Alewife Floater, the Eastern Floater, and the Eastern Lampmussel.
Freshwater mussels have an amazing life cycle including a parasitic stage in fish. In the spring, their fertilized eggs develop within the mussel into larvae called glochidia that are released into the water in the summer. The glochidia attach to the gills of host fish where they grow into juvenile mussels within a few weeks. Then they slough off and live on their own in the pond substrate while becoming adults. Some freshwater mussels need particular fish species as hosts, while others like the Eastern Elliptio are considered generalists. This species has been documented to successfully use as hosts Yellow Perch, Pumpkinseed, Bluegill and Banded Killifish that are all residents of most Brewster ponds.
Freshwater mussels also play a unique role in pond ecology as filter feeders. Their feeding on microscopic algae and bacteria can remove excess nutrients and improve the habitat for other organisms. They can show large changes in abundance due to changes in food availability. For example, surveys in Walkers Pond in 2013 showed freshwater mussels to be scarce when phytoplankton levels were relatively low. However, their numbers increased considerably in 2022 surveys when phytoplankton levels were high. This change was beneficial to their predators like River Otters and Muskrats.
About 75 percent of North America’s almost 300 freshwater mussel species are endangered, threatened or of special concern at federal or state levels. So, we are fortunate to have these unique species in Brewster ponds. You can help protect them by tossing them back into the water if you find them alive on the shore and by taking the steps advocated by BPC to keep ponds clean.
Eastern Elliptio. Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service, NCTC Image Library.
"Volunteerism is the voice of the people put into action.
These actions shape and mold the present into a future of which we can all be proud."
- Helen Dyer
Membership and volunteerism do matter, and our voices matter, too. Our mission to protect and improve our ponds demands attention to learning through science. It also means using our voice to take this knowledge to advocate for changes necessary to safeguard our freshwater resources. That is not always easy but is paramount to leaving behind a Brewster of which we can be proud.
Let’s use our voice and have thoughtful, honest and respectful conversation on how to protect our environment. With your continued support, our voice and advocacy will continue. Your annual membership renewal is a testament to your decision to protect our ponds.
We are off to a good start with our 2024 annual appeal, but still have a long way to go. Let’s hit our member and renewal goals of 70% this year! In 2024, the BPC will:
The Membership Team looks forward to reaching out to you during our "call-out" period beginning in January. Having a two-way conversation allows us to get your input and answer any questions that you may have out our plans and programs.
The BPC board hopes you will take a moment to donate by using the "Donate" button below. Please e-mail any comments, ideas, or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title "2024 Appeal." The Membership Team will answer all questions and ideas submitted.
Thank you for your support!
Photo of Sheep Pond guardian, submitted by Fred Budreski
Drone photograph courtesy of Betty Wiley.
Now more than ever, Brewster needs to focus on protecting and improving our ponds. The recently updated MA Title 5 septic system regulations only address nitrogen discharges impacting Nantucket Sound estuaries, with no consideration of all wastewater impacts. As a result, the Town of Brewster must expend resources to obtain watershed permits to address nitrogen discharges to the Pleasant Bay, Herring River, and Bass River watershed areas. With the exception of 40 feet on Pleasant Bay, all of these estuaries are located in Chatham, Dennis, and Harwich.
Securing these permits is important, but we can't let the new regulations divert our attention from the more pressing water quality issues facing Brewster: impairment risks to our over 80 freshwater kettle ponds and six miles of bayside shoreline. While finding solutions for the estuaries to our south is state mandated, protecting our ponds and the bay is essential to the wellbeing of our town.
Septic systems are the major source of human-related nutrient discharges (nitrogen and phosphorus) that are the primary cause of impairment to ponds and estuaries. Septic systems account for an estimated 80-85% of the human-caused discharges; fertilizer runoff from lawns and stormwater runoff from roads and driveways make up the remaining 15-20%. Planning to address the impairment risks from septic systems requires a Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP).
The Elephant in the Room
There are 15 towns on Cape Cod. All except Brewster have a CWMP. That means that 14 Cape towns have a plan that specifically addresses all wastewater. Most of these towns are either planning or expanding sewering systems. Truro, while not planning its own sewage treatment plant, plans to partner with Provincetown. Wellfleet’s plan includes a mixture of upgraded septic systems and semi-permeable barriers to remove nitrogen in the aquifer before the water reaches Wellfleet Harbor.
Brewster’s Integrated Water Resource Management Plan
Instead of a CWMP, Brewster has an Integrated Water Resource Management Plan (IWRMP). The plan identifies issues and proposes strategies to protect and restore water quality within specific watersheds, instead of focusing on all waters and the pollution sources that threaten them - septic systems, stormwater, and fertilizer. First developed in 2009 and updated in 2022, the plan focuses on the areas around Brewster’s six public drinking water wells, as well as new or modified septic systems in the Pleasant Bay, Herring River, and Bass River watersheds; those in the Namskaket and Quivett Creek watersheds; and those near freshwater ponds and wetlands. The report highlights past studies and remediation efforts, notably the benefits of purchasing open space around our public drinking wells, as well as measures to improve Long, Walkers and Upper Mill ponds. It requires septic systems at new or expanding houses to be more than 300 feet from ponds, if possible, and recommends ways to achieve the required nitrogen reduction in the Pleasant Bay watershed.
What is missing is a clear plan to address all wastewater impacts from all Brewster neighborhoods, not just nitrogen discharges in areas that now need estuary watershed permits and wastewater from new or modified houses within 300 feet of ponds.
In particular, we need to consider the impacts from existing houses and businesses on our ponds, as well as possible future needs to protect Cape Cod Bay. We all realize that Brewster is in great need of attainable housing. However, the IWRMP does not address this issue or tell us where central or localized sewage treatment plants might be needed or desirable to support this.
Brewster needs to address the new state Title 5 requirements to protect the estuaries to our south. But we need to keep the focus on the ponds and develop a plan that focuses on the #1 source of impairment, and risk to our ponds and the bay: wastewater from septic systems. In short, we need a comprehensive wastewater management plan!
Join the Brewster Ponds Coalition, Brewster Conservation Trust, and APCC in supporting watershed protection of the Sea Camps Long Pond Property.
Comments must be sent to BrewsterSeaCamps@gmail.com through December 10, 2023.
Dear Members and Friends:
While the BPC recognizes the critical need for attainable housing in Brewster, we strongly object to the proposed housing option on the Long Pond property.
Why not the pond property? Because more than half of the property is in a zone II drinking water protection area. About half of the town’s water supply comes from this well field. The pond property is also a potential location for additional wells if needed. Much of the property is in the sensitive Herring River Watershed, and all of the property impacts Long Pond, the largest kettle pond on Cape Cod which the US EPA identified as being impaired back in 2004. Let’s not make it worse.
Grow Smart Cape Cod, a mapping project partnership by APCC and Housing Assistance Corporation, identified the Long Pond property as being located within a priority natural resource area that should be protected and, therefore, is not appropriate for the development of housing. The same APCC-HAC project identified the area of the Cape Cod Bay Sea Camps property as one of the most suitable locations for housing in Brewster.
Yes, Brewster needs attainable housing, but we need to be smart about where to put it and have a plan for dealing with the resulting wastewater. Brewster is the only one of the 15 towns on the Cape that doesn’t yet have a comprehensive wastewater plan. Thus, the BPC strongly believes that all town-sponsored housing projects should be put on hold until a comprehensive wastewater plan has been developed.
The Brewster Ponds Coalition Board of Directors
Photograph courtesy of William F. Pomeroy, taken on Long Pond.
Thank you to all Brewster voters who attended the Special Town Meeting on November 13. The four warrant articles that relate to the town's water quality and were strongly supported by the BPC all passed. It is safe to say that Brewster's residents care about the health and future of our important water resources. For more information on all the articles and the resulting votes, visit the Town of Brewster website.
Please attend the Town of Brewster Special Town Meeting!
Monday, November 13
6 PM (check-in begins at 5 PM)
Stony Brook Elementary School
384 Underpass Road, Brewster
This meeting is very important for all Brewster voters to attend. There are four articles related to the Brewster's water quality issues on the warrant, as follows:
1. Ponds Management Plan & Pilot Pond Study: Professional services and costs for development of a town-wide pond management plan and related pond pilot studies - to be funded from Free Cash/Water Quality Stabilization - $100,000
2. Herring River Watershed Permit: Professional services and costs for development of the Town’s planned Herring River Watershed Permit, including analysis of future build-out potential - to be funded from the Water Quality Stabilization - $50,000
3. Drainage/Road Maintenance: Professional services for engineering, permitting, and construction associated with road maintenance and drainage - to be funded from Free Cash - $250,000
4. Local Comprehensive Plan (LCP): To see if the Town will vote to adopt an updated Master Plan for Brewster which has been developed by the Vision Planning Committee, a copy of which plan is on file at the Town Clerk's office and posted on the Town's website, and which plan if adopted by the Town Meeting would constitute Brewster’s Local Comprehensive Plan as defined in Section 9 of the Cape Cod Commission Act (Chapter 716 of the Acts of 1989). Or take any other action relative thereto.
The BPC encourages you to read the full warrant details here and looks forward to seeing you at the meeting. Your vote is important!
The BPC held an informative meeting on November 1 at the Brewster Council on Aging, discussing the articles relating to water quality issues in the Town of Brewster that will be voted upon at the upcoming Special Town Meeting on November 13. The attendees were all very interested in learning more and asking questions about these four items: 1) Ponds Management Plan & Pilot Study; 2) Herring River Watershed Permit; 3) Drainage/Road Maintenance; and 4) Local Comprehensive Plan (LCP).
The following day, the BPC appeared in an informative article in the Cape Cod Times, that further underscored the need to understand the key issues before voting. To read and download the full article, click here.
And please mark the Town Meeting on your calendars: 6 PM on November 13 at Stony Brook Elementary School, 384 Underpass Road.
Pictured above are Carol Gernert and Bruce Swiren, BPC Citizen Scrience team members, collecting water samples at Sheep Pond.