Tackling a Sticky Issue in New Bedford Harbor

The Coalition continues to focus on water quality across Buzzards Bay’s numerous harbors and coves, including New Bedford Harbor – the busy commercial port that hosts more than 400 fishing vessels and a burgeoning offshore wind energy industry. It’s also the only Bay harbor plagued with a chronic oil spill problem.


This month, the Coalition secured funding to advance plans to establish a permanent bilge collection site to service the commercial fishing fleet. Bilge water is often cross-contaminated with oil and when vessels pump out bilges directly into New Bedford Harbor it releases oil creating “mystery” oil spills that have a detrimental effect on the overall health of the harbor.


Between 2006-2022, there were 639 reported oil spills in New Bedford Harbor, the vast majority of which originated from the discharge of oil contaminated bilge water.


According to Korrin Petersen, the Coalition’s vice president for clean water advocacy, “Spills have been an issue in the harbor for decades and are a huge frustration. The solution has always been clear – a shoreside bilge pump out facility, but the last obstacle has always been where it will be sited.  This next phase of our efforts will help us get over that obstacle.”


With funding made possible by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Marine Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act (MOSPRA) grant program, the Coalition will soon convene stakeholders to rank and prioritization potential pumpout sites and technologies, followed by the completion of conceptual site designs for locations ranked among the top three.


“This should be one of the Bay’s least vexing problems, and I’m thrilled that we’re getting that much closer to a solution,” said Petersen. 

Categories: On the Bay, On the Land

Working to Save Buzzards Bay

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.

We work to protect clean water on the Bay and on the land: