Buzzards Bay Pollution & Response
Buzzards Bay remains an estuary in transition. The stresses faced by Buzzards Bay are typical of the stresses placed on many estuaries of the northeastern United States from past dumping of wastes, new development, and conflicting uses of natural resources. Along the eastern and northern shores of Buzzards Bay, dramatic coastal development occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. Owners converted small summer vacation homes into year-round residences. Property owners built an even larger number of new homes in some of these summer cottage areas. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, communities on the western shores like Westport, Dartmouth, and Mattapoisett had their own similar growth booms. In contrast, areas like the City of New Bedford, an old industrial and fishing center has had both a severe and continued population and economic decline, in part contributing to the suburban growth patterns in the surrounding communities.
Like many old industrial centers, the greater New Bedford area suffered from decades of pollution. While areas of New Bedford inner and outer harbor and Clarks Cove have seen some dramatic improvements in water quality, this area of Buzzards Bay still faces decades of prescribed cleanup and restoration.
In contrast to the success stories around New Bedford, most growth areas for development around the bay have largely experienced only continued water quality declines during the past two decades. Most of this degradation has been the result of non-point source pollution, and regulators have not imposed solutions, nor have towns adopted solutions voluntarily, especially for coastal eutrophication problems.
An important focus of the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program is to address the different forms of pollution discharges to coastal waters and within the watershed. This page links to the major categories of pollution and initiatives that are the focus of the Buzzards Bay NEP.