With the summer’s spate of stories on wastewater dumping in Nantucket Sound, one must ask what credentials the proponents of the Cape Wind project have in weighing in on this matter. Why do they scoff at the suggestion that Nantucket Sound is a pristine marine area that ought to be protected against a project of Cape Wind’s massive scale? Cape Wind and its supporters can’t hide their delight at this summer’s news stories about waste disposal in the Sound because it’s such great political cover for them.
The logic behind the strategy to trash Nantucket Sound seems clear enough: If it can be said that the Sound is too far gone to care about, why would anyone oppose an industrial project in its midst? What would it matter that the complex has a 10-story transformer substation with 40,000 gallons of transformer oil, surrounded by skyscraping steel towers that cover 25 square miles of publicly-owned sea bed? Of what worth is this resource that is already plundered?
Cape Wind’s characterization of Nantucket Sound as a lost environmental cause is a desperate move. But the “dumping grounds” saga is not so dreary a tale as Cape Wind, and their cheerleader group Clean Power Now, would like it to be. Certainly, the offshore discharge of waste is vile and must be ended. Efforts are underway to do so. A six-member task force focused on a “No Discharge Area” designation for Nantucket Sound has been hard at work for the past year assembling the data needed for the designation to happen. The group, to which the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound belongs, consists of town, non-profit, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management representatives. Its goal is to achieve this important designation by the end of next year.
At the same time the no-discharge effort is moving forward, two major players in reducing contributions to sewage dumping in Nantucket Sound—Hy-Line Cruises and the Steamship Authority—have said they are planning dockside pump-out facilities that are expected to be operational in 2008 and 2009, respectively. But the cost of these facilities is daunting, and public funds are needed to help expedite building of these kinds of commercial scale pump-out stations.
As important steps toward securing the future of Nantucket Sound move forward, the Alliance, as “Nantucket Soundkeeper,” in partnership with the School for Marine Science and Technology at UMass/Dartmouth, the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership, Nantucket Marine Department, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Tisbury Shellfish Department, Three Bays Preservation, Mashpee Water Quality Monitoring Program, Cleveland Ledge Lighthouse Foundation, and Falmouth PondWatchers are taking monthly water quality samples at 16 sites across Nantucket Sound to measure the health of its waters. Results to date show that water quality in Nantucket Sound is very high, with total nitrogen below 0.3 parts per million, or near natural background levels. For Cape Wind supporters to say otherwise is an easily exposed media ploy that suggests little understanding of the dynamics of the Sound.
Of far more importance right now is the Sound’s near-shore coastal water quality. It is seriously impaired around much of Cape Cod, mostly from septic systems. Without diminishing the importance of cleaning up the middle of Nantucket Sound, it is clear that the significantly larger problem remains proper land-side disposal of our own household and business wastewater, which eventually affects coastal water quality.
There is ample evidence that Nantucket Sound is ecologically important and worthy of our collective efforts to preserve it. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound will not stand by while the Cape Wind cabal trashes the Sound in its quest to convince the public to support an industrial-scale project that is the real threat to this vital resource.
By Susan Nickerson
(Susan Nickerson is executive director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.)
Oct 5, 2007
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