Stormwater and Wastewater Management



On December 12th,2021 Tisbury Waterworks Incorporated with the MVC hosted Jessica Thompson, SMAST, to discuss the project of the Permeable Reactive Barrier (PRB) residing on Lagoon Pond Road  on the Lagoon in Vineyard Haven. You can see the recorded zoom meeting here. In the presentation she discusses what PRBs are, what they can do for a nutrient rich ecosystem to reduce nitrogen input, how the project on the Lagoon is going, as well as how and why others might be interested in installing one themselves!


Wastewater is the largest locally controlled source of nitrogen pollution to our groundwater and surface waters. Coastal salt ponds are more sensitive to nitrogen than people, so we need additional measures to limit nitrogen pollution beyond the requirements in place to ensure human health. Wastewater leaving the septic tank contains about 35 parts per million of nitrogen. Natural nitrogen uptake and bacterial conversion to nitrogen gas lowers the septic system nitrogen by about 25% by the time it reaches a coastal pond.

Waterwater Management

Innovative/Alternative Conference

The MVC hosted an Innovative/Alternative Conference on May 12,2016. The goal of this conference was to bring together industry professionals, scientists, policy makers and local stakeholders to discuss the issue of nutrient pollution in our local ponds and estuaries, and to explore various technologies and solutions to this problem. With the wide range of potential solutions discussed, we are confident that our community can prevent further degradation of water quality and take measures to improve the health of our ponds. The MVC will continue to host informational sessions on alternative solutions and we look forward to collaborating  to help clean up our waters.Below are links to the presentations given at the conference and a link to MVTV to view the proceedings.


Morning Session  link to MVTV site

Afternoon Session link to MVTV site


Stormwater is the water generated from impervious surfaces when it rains. Unless it is dealt with in some other way, stormwater generated near surface waters drives silt, organic matter, bacteria, nutrients, metals, and petroleum products into fresh and coastal waters. The bacteria carried to our coastal ponds contribute to shellfish bed closures that impact our way of life. Stormwater is a visible, often easily corrected source of water pollution.

This source of water quality degradation can be eliminated or at least reduced by having rain and runoff infiltrate directly into the ground, instead of letting it flow into coastal ponds and other surfacewaters. In the ground, it is filtered, treated, and then replenishes groundwater resources.

The use of nonstructural, natural approaches is preferred. Low Impact Development (LID) is an innovative stormwater management approach that avoids costly conventional techniques to pipe, treat, and dispose of stormwater. Instead, it replicates the pre-development hydrology of the site by using design techniques modeled after nature, to infiltrate, filter, store, evaporate, and detain runoff close to its source. Techniques include porous pavers, pervious asphalt, bioretention swales, grassed infiltration areas and rain gardens. LID guidelines should be incorporated into permitting and project approvals at town and MVC levels to minimize the generation of stormwater.

The following criteria are recommended to prioritize which stormwater systems to remediate.
  • Discharges to surface waters that contain shellfish resources, especially discharges close to the shellfish waters (remove bacteria using vegetative treatment where possible and infiltration to the ground otherwise).
  • Discharges where nitrogen impairment exists (direct as much stormwater as possible to natural vegetated buffers or artificial vegetated bioretention swales to reduce nutrients, bacteria and other pollutants; infiltrate as much of the remainder as possible).

Where no treatment is possible, the schedule of catch basin clean-outs should be evaluated to determine if a more frequent clean-out is required.


  • Native plants in Buffer Strips Native plants for use in buffer strips or residential low-maintenance landscapes. See also the Polly Hill Plant Selection Guide below.
  • Water Table Data- 2008 Update: Summarizes the data collected from 1992 through 2008 from an Island-wide network of 15 monitoring wells.
  • MVC DRI Policy – Water Quality: Outlines the standards that the MVC uses to evaluate the proposed wastewater systems for Developments of Regional Impact.

Useful Links

  • Polly Hill Arboretum Plant Selection Guide: A resource intended to guide municipalities, landscape architects, and individuals towards plants with excellent horticultural, ecological and adaptive characteristics that are suitable for landscape uses on Martha’s Vineyard. 
  • Coastal Stormwater Management through Green Infrastructure: A Handbook for Municipalities (Handbook) is designed to assist coastal municipalities within the Massachusetts Bays Program (MassBays) area to incorporate green infrastructure into their stormwater management planning.
  • University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center: Information on cutting-edge research on stormwater management, as well as resources for the stormwater management community.
  • Alternative Nitrogen Removal Options: As an alternative to traditional Title 5 septic systems and centralized wastewater treatment systems, there are a number of techniques that can be used to reduce nitrogen at the source or to mitigate its impacts on coastal ponds. This page includes links to some of them. 
  • Department of Environmental Protection: Massachusetts resource on on-site wastewater disposal systems, treatment plants, water reuse and how stormwater affects water resources.
  • Alternative Septic System Test CenterThe test center, located in Sandwich, MA, evaluates the performance and operations costs of innovative alternative wastewater disposal technologies to provide economical alternatives to conventional septic systems.
  • National Small Flows Clearinghouse: Provides objective information and data to communities and individuals to help solve wastewater problems with onsite wastewater collection and treatment systems. 

Office location:

Office location:

The Stone Building
33 New York Avenue
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

Telephone: 508-693-3453
Fax: 508-693-7894

Mailing Address

Mailing address:

Martha's Vineyard Commission
P.O. Box 1447
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

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