Coastal Water Nutrient Monitoring Program
Chatham Water Watchers, in cooperation with the Town of Chatham and the Pleasant Bay Alliance, collect and test water samples in Chatham's estuaries five times per summer at biweekly intervals during July and August and once in early September. Volunteers are trained by Dr. Robert Duncanson, Director of Chatham's Department of Health and Natural Resources, to directly assess water quality by measuring water clarity, salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen content and taking water samples at varying depths. Collected data and water samples are analyzed by the UMass School of Marine Science and Technology in Dartmouth.
The program's history began in 1994 when the Massachusetts State Executive Office of Environmental Affairs endorsed a Stage Harbor Management Plan approved by Chatham's town meeting. Chatham's plan was the first to be adopted by a Massachusetts town and became a model for other towns. Friends of Chatham Waterways (FCW) aided in the development of the Stage Harbor Plan which called for the design of a water quality monitoring program in efforts to better understand and manage wastewater from homes, businesses and storm water runoff. In 1999,FCW worked cooperatively with the town to implement this plan which became the Coastal Water Nutrient Monitoring Program.
In the early years, FCW volunteers collected data that was needed for initial wastewater management planning. This data provided critical input for the Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) for Chatham. The Total Maximum Daily Loads of nitrogen for each estuary set by the MEP is part of the basis of Chatham's Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan that has guided our sewering and plant treatment of wastewater.
In 2019, forth-three FCW Water Watcher volunteers monitored 15 stations in Chatham's estuaries, completing the 21st consecutive year of the Coastal Water Nutrient Monitoring Program. Since it is important to monitor water quality over a long period, Chatham Water Watchers will continue their work over the years ahead. Once more wastewater has begun to be treated, there will be a need for continued monitoring to assess progress against algae, low dissolved oxygen and decayed bottom sediment which contribute to the loss of plant and animal species in our waterways.
Every September, Friends of Chatham Waterways (FCW) Coastsweep volunteers collect trash at 21 sites alone Chatham's shoreline. Coastsweep is run locally by FCW and is part of the Massachusetts Office off Coastal Zone Management's (CZM) annual Massachusetts Coastal Cleanup in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup.
FCW provides volunteers with debris grabbers and CZM contributes trash bags and gloves for collection. The Ocean Conservancy supplies data cards for recording site findings. After the beach cleanups, trash and data cards are dropped off at a Chatham location. Debris is picked up by the town's Department of Parks and Recreation, and data cards are forwarded first to the CZM and then sent to the Ocean Conservancy in Washington for analysis and publication. The data provided helps develop programs to reduce marine debris worldwide.
In 2019, 55 volunteers participated in the 32nd annual Coastsweep cleanup in Chatham, collecting approximately 345 lbs. of debris filling 35 trash bags. The most numerous items picked up were cigarette butts, plastic food wrappers, plastic bottle caps, plastic and foam packaging, fishing net pieces, fishing line and balloons. The most unusual items found were a fiberglass panel and boat hull, wooden boat floor boards, a dock piling, a mushroom anchor, a channel buoy, oyster cages, rubber tires, various articles of clothing and a Barbie Doll!
Coastsweep volunteers help to bring an awareness of the abundance of trash on the town's beaches and of the consequent need for people to be responsible about picking up not only their own debris but also that of others too.