Conservation Commission To Examine Use Of Styrofoam On Docks

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Conservation , Waterways

HARWICH — Every day, Ann Frechette walks along the shore of John Josephs Pond and picks up a cup full of tiny foam beads.

She told the conservation commission last week that Styrofoam is spewing into the pond every day from an old dock on a neighbor’s property and she is concerned about the impacts on wildlife and the environment. Frechette said when she purchased her property on the pond there was an old dock on her property; she removed it right away and had it replaced with new materials.

Frechette said she has spoken with the neighboring property owner, pointing out wildlife is eating the Styrofoam and fish are dying. But the neighbor does not spend much time there, and the property is rented over the summer and then gets closed up, she said.

Frechette said she conducted a survey of John Josephs and Bucks ponds and she found a few other docks disintegrating into the ponds. She strongly encourages owners to remove them.

“I wanted to see if you are aware of the problem,” Frechette told the commission. “I want to make sure the environment stays friendly to the wildlife that lives there.”

Conservation Commission Chairman Brad Chase credited Frechette with being an advocate for change and asked how the commission could resolve the issue.

Conservation Administrator Amy Usowski said it would take a simple regulation change requiring that when docks have to be replaced, Styrofoam can no longer be used. Styrofoam is a synthetic resin made from a hydrocarbon polymer.

“It would be very simple to come up with a regulation people would have to abide by,” she said. “I think we can tackle this one right away.”

Usowski said when something is causing a detriment to the wetlands, regardless of whether it is permitted or not, the commission can tell the property owner to address it or remove it. Usowski said she would send a letter to the individual and if the commission does not get a response, she would take enforcement steps.

There was discussion about whether the docks in the ponds are permitted. Frechette said she posed that question to Harbormaster John Rendon and was told they are not permitted.

Rendon said this week he talked to Frechette when she wanted to put in a new dock. Permission for a water-dependent structure connected to the land would go through the waterways committee and be permitted through the conservation commission. He said a float attached to a mooring is under the harbormaster’s jurisdiction.

Chase said the commission talked several months ago about reviewing the dock regulations. Usowski said she would prefer to address this issue through one comprehensive change to dock regulations, rather than just one change to the regulation now.

Chase said the commission will devote time to dock regulations over the next couple of months.

“I think there will be a lot of support for it,” he said.

Commission member Ernest Crabtree said there are a number of Styrofoam items on ponds, such as water intake floats, and Styrofoam use controls should be much more comprehensive than just docks.