image of barnstable county courthouse

Chatham, Harwich, Orleans and Brewster move forward with watershed pact

The pieces to the wastewater cleanup puzzle for Pleasant Bay are starting to come together.

Town meetings this spring in all four towns that overlap the 21,600-acre watershed approved an article directing selectmen to approve and execute an inter-municipal agreement that paves the way for a Pleasant Bay watershed permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The permit will allow the participating towns of Chatham, Harwich, Orleans and Brewster to work together to remove controllable sources of nitrogen, 75 percent of which come from septic systems. Transported with groundwater, nitrogen enters coastal water bodies and acts like fertilizer, fueling the rapid growth of algae, whose life cycle can greatly deplete the oxygen in the water, killing off all marine life. Thick algae mats can also smother native vegetation and wildlife on the bottom of bays or rivers.