Edgartown Great Pond removed from impairment list

Opens use for shellfishing, swimming.

Edgartown Great Pond has been cleared for shellfishing, swimming. — Brian Dowd

Edgartown Great Pond has been delisted from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s impairment list, clearing the way for shellfishing and recreational use.

Edgartown Great Pond is a Class SA water body, and the delisting means that it is now fully approved for shellfishing, following years of water quality sampling by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

“EGP was first listed in 1992 by the DEP, so the delisting in 2020 is a milestone, and represents the collective efforts of all those who have been working to preserve and protect EGP,” Edgartown Great Pond Foundation executive director Emily Reddington wrote in part. “EGP is a living system, so management techniques must continue to evolve with the changing needs of the pond. Conservation work is never complete as long as the pressures on the system, such as nitrogen and warming temperatures, continue to increase. It is, however, good to pause and recognize this achievement.”

DEP regularly monitors bacteria counts in the pond. What has changed is the pond has had consistently low bacteria levels — a contrast to other Vineyard ponds.

On May 20, DEP announced approval of the final total maximum daily load (TMDL) for pathogens on Martha’s Vineyard as well as Nantucket and the Elizabeth Islands by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The TMDL is a watershed-wide bacteria TMDL that was developed as part of a series of watershed pathogen TMDLs initiated in the early 2000s under a grant from the EPA,” wrote Barbara Kickham, TMDL section chief for the Watershed Planning Program at DEP.

The goal of the TMDLs is for bacteria concentrations in impaired estuaries to meet the Massachusetts Surface Water Quality Standards according to its uses, such as shellfishing, swimming, or boating, according to a letter from Kickham.

Since the draft TMDL was issued in 2005, there have been improvements through local efforts, such as catch basin mapping, stormwater infrastructure needs, and best management practices to facilitate drainage and no-discharge zones, which prohibit the release of boat sewage into coastal waters. Bacteria and viruses from sewage can be toxic to human and marine life.

Reddington told The Times the delisting is another sign the health of the pond is improving.

“We’re seeing lots of signs of recovery and signs of life in the pond, but our work isn’t done,” Reddington said.

While progress has been made, additional management actions such as maintenance of septic systems, education on proper pet waste disposal, increased catch basin cleaning, and street sweeping, are called for.

In her letter, Kickham says no towns on the Island have urbanized areas regulated under EPA and Mass DEP’s General Stormwater Permit; however, the department encourages towns to consider developing stormwater management plans.

Along with Edgartown Great Pond, Menemsha Pond and Oyster Pond are no longer impaired for pathogens. Westend Pond on Cuttyhunk is also included on the no-longer-impaired list.


  1. Hopefully MVC will kill the Meeting House subdvision later this month so the EGP doesn’t wind up back on the list.

  2. This is wonderful news. However one needs to put The Meetinghouse subdivision facts out there.
    If you are fully informed and it appears you are not The Meetinghouse Place development is approved for 5 big homes on Septic. The developer has propsed 26 homes plus low income housing and at their cost will run the sewer line from Road to plains to this development taking the 5 homes approved off septic. Further they have offered to run the sewer line up Horchkiss Lane as well as other areas not currently on sewer.
    All in all though there is an increase in the number of house the environmental impact on the pond is significantly enhanced by the sewer lines and taking multiple homes and the entire development ny Meetinghouse Place off septic.
    Those are the facts presented at the last meeting.
    Why would you not want this development as well as other areas taken off septic which is the main source of nitrogen hurting the pond?
    Put all the facts out there not just the narrative you want the sheep to see.

  3. No to the Meetinghouse Development. There will be 26 homes and how many units of affordable housing? There will be green lawns and swimming pools. This enormous project is in the Great Pond watershed. These are the facts. Listen to the science and what Edgartown has labored toward over the years. The Great Pond is finally showing signs of health and this project will jeopardize that advancement and the future of the pond.

  4. 12 to 14 low income units
    The 5 homes approved for septic would affect the great pond more than the 26 homes in sewer
    They would be removing upwards of 12 plus addl homes from septic on Hotchkiss lane and other surrounding streets. More could be added as well
    All in all. Better for the island and pond

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