Coalition keeps watch on Mattapoisett construction violations to protect Eel Pond

Eel Pond is a beautiful, highly sensitive salt pond just steps away from Mattapoisett Harbor. Wildlife such as fish, water birds, and blue crabs flock to Eel Pond for its calm, protected habitat. And people enjoy using the pond for paddling, wading, birdwatching, fishing, and shellfishing.

But Eel Pond is one of the most nitrogen polluted waterways in the Buzzards Bay region. According to Coalition data, its Bay Health Index score has lingered in the “poor” range for nearly 20 years.

Why? Because lots of land drains into Eel Pond, which is fairly small and shallow. Nitrogen pollution from home septic systems, lawn fertilizers, and other human sources flows into the pond and fuels the growth of algae. That’s why it’s important to protect Eel Pond from new sources of pollution, which could make its health even worse.

In 2000, a developer submitted a proposal for a five-home subdivision called Harbor View Heights on Eel Pond. The Mattapoisett Conservation Commission approved the development – but with the Coalition’s involvement, added special requirements that would help protect Eel Pond from further pollution.

Each home had to have a permanent “no-build” buffer zone between the homes and the wetlands surrounding Eel Pond. This buffer zone acted as extra layer of pollution protection for the pond and its wetlands. Other requirements included enhanced nitrogen-reducing septic systems, limits on lawn sizes, and runoff controls to reduce polluted stormwater.

Now, nearly 15 years later, it appears that many of these requirements were never met. After comparing aerial photographs of the community between 2009 and 2014, the Coalition found many violations that further threaten the health of Eel Pond.

On one lot, the corner of a house juts into the buffer zone. On another, a perfectly manicured lawn cuts deeply into the buffer zone, where natural plants and soil were supposed to have been left undisturbed. Trees have been cut down and wetlands have been filled. And nitrogen-removing septic systems have never been inspected to see how well they’re working.

After discovering these violations, the Coalition contacted the developer in 2013 to solve the issues. But the developer didn’t take any meaningful action. In fact, we discovered even more violations in 2014 – at the same time we were urging the developer to comply.

So, at the beginning of this year, we contacted the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission about these violations. And at its most recent meeting in February, the commission made clear that it expects a restoration plan to fix the violations. We support the commission and look forward to seeing the restoration plan.

The Coalition will keep doing our part to watch out for construction violations like these. Together, we can work toward a solution to protect clean water in communities across the Bay.

Category: On the Land

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The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported organization dedicated to improving the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

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