Awarded by the EPA since 1970, the Environmental Merit Awards honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the region’s environment. This year’s competition drew nearly 100 nominations from across New England.
For over 20 years, the Baywatchers volunteer water quality monitoring program has mobilized over 750 Buzzards Bay citizens to monitor the health the Bay at over 200 stations around the region — an effort that has measured 43,681 dissolved oxygen and 11,170 nutrient samples over the last two decades. As the largest coastal monitoring effort in Massachusetts, Baywatchers monitor more than a quarter of the state’s coastline.
It is a regional program with volunteers throughout Bay communities:
- In Westport and Dartmouth alone, there are over 30 water sampling locations, including on the Westport Rivers, Slocums River and Little Rivers, and Apponagansett Bay.
- In New Bedford, Fairhaven, and Acushnet, there are volunteers at over 20 water sampling sites. The data collected has helped to document improvements in water quality in outer New Bedford Harbor over the last two decades.
- There are over 25 sites just in Marion and Mattapoisett, and the data collected by the volunteers has illustrated the growing impact of nitrogen pollution in Old Rochester’s coastal waters.
- Over 30 volunteers monitor water quality in Wareham’s waters. That data has documented improvements in water quality on the Agawam River following the wastewater treatment plant upgrade, but also showed declines in other areas.
- On Cape Cod, in the towns of Bourne and Falmouth, over 30 volunteers collect water quality data up and down the coast. In addition, for the past three years, the Coalition has partnered with The Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory to compile and analyze the data.
The citizen-based Baywatchers monitoring program was initiated in 1992 to evaluate nitrogen-related water quality and long-term ecological trends in embayment health and encourage local citizens to be active stewards of their environment. Water testing has been performed every five days in the summer for 20 consecutive years by highly trained citizen volunteers who are coordinated, trained, and motivated by Tony Williams, Director of Monitoring Programs.
“The best part of this program is working with this incredible group of volunteers who want to understand the health of their harbor and cove what they can do to improve it,” said Williams. “This award recognizes that all of their hard work really helps to restore clean water in Buzzards Bay.”
The Bay Health data collected by the program forms the foundation of the Coalition’s work to protect and restore the health of the Bay. It is also used by other organizations and agencies to create restoration or protection plans for the Bay and its tributaries.
Read the EPA’s press release on the Environmental Merit Awards.