Selectmen consider strong measures to heal Sengekontacket Pond

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Oak Bluffs selectmen are considering plans to restore the health of Sengekontacket Pond that could include restrictions on lawn fertilizer, creation of a District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC), and inspection of septic systems, among other actions.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) this week issued a draft restoration plan for Sengekontacket Pond that called for the towns of Oak Bluffs and Edgartown to remove nitrogen flowing into the pond. To do that, they are calling for a 60 percent reduction in the amount of septic wastewater allowed to drain into the Major’s Cove watershed, and remove 100 percent of the septic wastewater contributed to the Trapps Pond watershed.

Terry Appenzellar and former Oak Bluffs selectman Duncan Ross, representing the Friends of Sengekontacket Pond (FOS), asked selectmen to consider a range of actions to reduce the nitrogen already making its way into the pond, and prevent any further nitrogen loading from future development.

“Collaboration is really, really critical,” Ms. Appenzellar said. “The (FOS) feels strongly that a DCPC would be one way to get where we want to go. We all need to work together now to try and restore this amazing gem that we call Sengekontacket Pond.”

A DCPC could allow the town to further control development, including lawns and structures, within 500 feet of the water.

To illustrate the threats to the pond, Ms. Appenzellar put a large bag of nitrogen fertilizer on the selectmen’s meeting table. She also brought a jar of algae from Sengekontacket Pond. “You smelled it all summer, you couldn’t help but smell it,” she said.

Selectmen took all of the suggestions under advisement, and made plans to respond to the DEP draft restoration plan.

Also Tuesday, selectmen set Tuesday, November 13, for a special town meeting. According to town administrator Bob Whritenour, the warrant will include some financial housekeeping articles, some capital improvement articles, but no major budget adjustments.

The board approved a recommendation from the town shellfish committee to open Oak Bluffs Harbor to recreational shellfish permit holders on December 1, and commercial permit holders on December 3.

Selectmen granted permission to the League of Women Voters to hold a non-partisan voter registration drive on Healey Way on October 6 and 7, and again on October 12 and 13.