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Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program

1991 CCMP Glossary

See also: Acronyms Used by Environmental Agencies  |    Glossary of Terms used in Environmental Science


CCMP glossary

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Aerobic: Living, active, or occurring only in the presence of oxygen.

Algal Bloom: A condition resulting from excessive nutrient levels or other physical and chemical conditions that enable algae to reproduce rapidly.

Anadromous Fish: A species, such as salmon, alewives, or river herring, that is born in fresh water, spends a large part of its life in the sea, and returns to freshwater rivers and streams to procreate.

Anaerobic: A process occurring in the absence of free oxygen.

Anoxic: A condition in which oxygen is absent.

Antidegradation provision: Standards in the Clean Water Act which regulate activities in order to maintain and protect existing water uses in designated areas.

Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC): An area encompassing land and water resources of regional or statewide importance, designated by the Secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (in accordance with 301 CMR (Commonwealth of Massachusetts Regulation). Copies of all state regulations can be obtained in the State House Bookstore in Boston. See all entries under Massachusetts General Law Ch 12:6.40-6.55), to receive additional protection and management.

Aromatic Hydrocarbons: Compounds that contain at least one 6-carbon ring; often important components of oils.

Attenuation: The process by which a compound is reduced in concentration over time or distance through absorption, degradation, or transformation.

Barrier Beach: A narrow low-lying strip of land generally consisting of coastal beaches and coastal dunes extending roughly parallel to the trend of the coast. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow body of fresh, brackish, or saline water or by a marsh system.

Beneficial Uses: Uses designated in Massachusetts Surface Water Quality Standards for public water supply, for protection and propagation of fish and other wildlife, and for primary and secondary contact recreation and any other uses that do not impair these designated uses.

Best Management Practice (BMP): A method for preventing or reducing the pollution resulting from an activity. The term originated from rules and regulation in Section 208 of the Clean Water Act. Specific BMPs are defined for each pollution source.

Bioaccumulation: The process by which a contaminant accumulates in the tissues of an individual organism. For example, certain chemicals in food eaten by a fish tend to accumulate in its liver and other tissues.

Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD): A measure of the organic material that can be readily oxidized through microbial decomposition, consuming oxygen dissolved in water. BOD is often used to assess the effects of a discharge, especially sewage.

Board of Health: A municipal, elected or appointed authority responsible for administering bylaws addressing health, safety, and welfare issues covered in the State Environmental Code, including Title 5.

Bordering Vegetated Wetlands (BVW): As defined in 310 CMR 10.55, the Wetlands Protection Act Regulation, freshwater wetlands that border on creeks, rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes. The types of freshwater wetlands are wet meadows, marshes, swamps, and bogs. They are areas where the topography is low and flat, and where the soils are saturated at least part of the year.

Buildout Analysis: A parcel-by-parcel analysis to estimate the total number of existing and developable units, based on current zoning and other land-use regulations. Such an analysis is essential for managing and limiting impacts of growth.

Cape Cod Commission (CCC): A regional planning agency, formerly known as the Cape Cod Planning and Economic Development Commission (CCPEDC), which includes Buzzards Bay's eastern shore municipalities, Bourne, and Falmouth. As a result of legislative action and local approval, this agency has review authority over land-use decisions throughout Cape Cod. The CCC also provides technical assistance, coordinates inter-municipal activities, and serves as a depository for regional information.

Carcinogen: A substance that causes cancer.

Carrying Capacity: The limit of a natural or man-made system to absorb perturbations, inputs, or population growth.

Catadromous Fish: A freshwater species that spawns in salt water.

CCMP: Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. A watershed management plan required by the US EPA pursuant to Section 320 of the 1987 Clean Water Act, the National Estuary Program.

Cesspool: A covered pit with a perforated lining in the bottom into which raw sewage is discharged: the liquid portion of the sewage is disposed of by seeping or leaching into the surrounding porous soil; the solids, or sludge, are retained in the pit to undergo partial decomposition before occasional or intermittent removal. Cesspools are no longer permitted for waste disposal.

Chlorinated Hydrocarbons (CHCs): All aromatic and non-aromatic hydrocarbons containing chlorine atoms. Includes certain pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other solvents.

Coastal Bank: As defined in 310 CMR 10.30 (2), the Wetlands Protection Act Regulation, the seaward face or side of any elevated landform, other than a coastal dune, which lies at the landward edge of a coastal beach, land subject to tidal action, or other wetland. A typical working definition is "the first major break in slope above the 100-year flood elevation, but this definition may not apply in certain special circumstances.

Coastal Wetland: As defined in Massachusetts General Law Chapter 131, Section 40, the Wetlands Protection Act Regulation, any bank, marsh, swamp, meadow, flat, or other low land subject to tidal action or coastal storm flowage and such contiguous land as the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection deems necessary.

Coastal Zone: As officially defined in 301 CMR 20.00, the zone that extends landward to 100 feet beyond specified major roads, rail lines, or other visible rights-of-way; includes all of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Gosnold; and extends seaward to the edge of the state territorial sea.

Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program: A federally funded and approved state program under the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972. The program reviews federal permitting, licensing, funding, and development activities in the coastal zone for consistency with state policies.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA): A federal law administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, dealing with the assessment and remediation of hazardous material disposal sites. Superfund activities are performed under this Act.

Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO): A pipe that, during storms, discharges untreated wastewater from a sewer system that carries both sanitary wastewater and stormwater. The overflow occurs because a system does not have the capacity to transport and treat the increased flow caused by stormwater runoff.

Combined Sewers: A system that carries both sewage and stormwater runoff. In dry weather, all flow from sewer lines and street drains goes to the wastewater treatment plant. During heavy rains, treatment plants usually can handle only part of this flow, and the sewer system is overloaded. The overflow mixture of sewage and stormwater is discharged untreated into the receiving water.

Conservation Commission: An appointed municipal agency responsible for administering the Wetlands Protection Act at the local level.

Contaminant: A substance that is not naturally present in the environment or is present in unnatural concentrations that can, in sufficient concentration, adversely alter an environment. Federal regulations (40 CFR 230) for the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters regulated by Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act define a contaminant as a chemical or biological substance in a form that can be incorporated into, onto, or be ingested by and that harms aquatic organisms, consumers of aquatic organisms, or users of the aquatic environment.

Cumulative Effects: The combined environmental impacts that accrue over time and space from a series of similar or related individual actions, contaminants, or projects. Although each action may seem to have a negligible impact, the combined effect can be serious.

Department of Environmental Management (DEM): The state agency responsible for managing natural resources, including, but not limited to, water resources. DEM administers the Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries Act.

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP): The state agency, formerly known as the Department of Environmental Quality Engineering, responsible for administering laws and regulations protecting air quality, water supply, and water resources, such as Chapter 91 and Title 5, and for administering programs such as the Wetlands Protection Program and Wetlands Restriction Program. It is also responsible for overseeing the cleanup of hazardous waste sites and responding to hazardous waste emergencies and accidents.

Designated Port Areas: As defined in Chapter 91 Regulations, that portion of certain urban harbors where maritime-dependent industrial uses are encouraged to locate. This concentration of uses maximizes public investments in dredging, bulkheads, piers, and other port facilities.

Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF): The agency within the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs responsible for managing the Shellfish Sanitation Program, overseeing shellfish relays, depuration plants, commercial fishing licenses, and management and stock assessment of Massachusetts fisheries.

Drainage Basin: The land that surrounds a body of water and contributes fresh water, either from streams, groundwater, or surface runoff, to that body of water.

Dredging: The removal of materials including, but not limited to, rocks, bottom sediments, debris, sand, refuse, and plant or animal matter in any excavating, cleaning, deepening, widening or lengthening, either permanently or temporarily, of any tidelands, rivers, streams, ponds or other waters of the Commonwealth, as defined in 310 CMR 9:04.

Ecosystem: A community of living organisms interacting with one another and with their physical environment, such as a salt marsh, an embayment, or an estuary. A system such as Buzzards Bay is considered a sum of these interconnected ecosystems.

Eelgrass:(Zostera marina) A marine flowering plant that grows subtidally in sand and mud. In Buzzards Bay, eelgrass is widespread and grows to depths of 20 feet. Eelgrass beds are an important habitat and nursery for fish, shellfish, and waterfowl.

Effluent: The outflow of water, with or without pollutants, usually from a pipe.

Embayments: A small bay or any small semi-enclosed coastal water body whose opening to a larger body of water is restricted.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The federal agency principally responsible for administering the Clean Water Act, National Estuary Program, CERCLA, Superfund, and other major federal environmental programs.

Estuary: A semi-enclosed coastal body of water having a free connection with the open sea and within which seawater is measurably diluted with fresh water.

Eutrophication: The process of nutrient enrichment in aquatic ecosystems. In marine systems, eutrophication results principally from nitrogen inputs from human activities such as sewage disposal and fertilizer use. The addition of nitrogen to coastal waters stimulates algal blooms and growth of bacteria, and can cause broad shifts in ecological communities present and contribute to anoxic events and fish kills. In freshwater systems and in parts of estuaries below 5 ppt salinity, phosphorus is likely to be the limiting nutrient and the cause of eutrophic effects.

Fecal Coliform: Bacteria that are present in the intestines of feces of warm-blooded animals and that are often used as indicators of the sanitary quality of water. Their degree of presence in water is expressed as the number of bacteria per 100 milliliters of the sample. The greater the number of fecal coliforms, the higher the risk of exposure to human pathogens.

Floodplain: The area of shorelands extending inland from the normal yearly maximum stormwater level to the highest expected stormwater level in a given period of time (e.g., 5, 50, 100 years).

Flushing Time: The mean length of time for a pollutant entering a water body to be removed by natural forces such as tides and currents; also referred to as residence time or turnover time.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The federal agency that is responsible for, among other things, administering the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.

General Bylaws: Local laws that can be adopted with a simple majority vote at the town meetings. Cities adopt ordinances by a simple majority vote of the city council.

Grandfathering: A provision from Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40 that allows existing land uses or structures to remain without coming into compliance with upgraded zoning or building requirements.

Habitat: The specific area or environment in which a particular type of plant or animal lives. An organism's habitat must provide all the basic requirements for survival.

Heavy Metals: A group of elements that is present in the environment from natural and anthropogenic sources and can produce toxic effects. This group includes mercury, copper, cadmium, zinc, and arsenic.

Hypoxia: A condition in which oxygen is deficient.

Impervious Surface: A surface that cannot be easily penetrated. For instance, rain does not readily penetrate asphalt or concrete pavement.

Impervious Material: With respect to Title 5 Regulations, a material or soil having a percolation rate greater than 30 minutes per inch; including, but not limited to, bedrock, peat, loam, and organic matter.

Industrial Pretreatment: The removal or reduction of certain contaminants from industrial wastewater before it is discharged into a municipal sewer system. Reduced loading of contaminants from industries can reduce the expense of managing and designing municipal treatment facilities.

Infiltration: The penetration of water through the ground surface into subsurface soil. Some contaminants are removed by this process.

Kettle Holes: A small, glacially formed freshwater body.

Leaching Facility: An approved structure used for the dispersion of septic-tank effluent into the soil. These include leaching pits, galleries, chambers, trenches, and fields as described in 310 CMR 15.11 through 15.15.

Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA): Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 30, the state law, administered by the MEPA unit within the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, establishing a uniform system of environmental impact review.

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40: The state zoning law for which the municipal planning boards and the zoning boards of appeal are responsible.

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 41: The state law governing subdivisions, administered by municipal planning boards and zoning boards of appeal.

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 91: The Waterways Licensing Program governing waterfront development in Massachusetts, administered by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Office of Coastal Zone Management.

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 111: State law (Section 40) that vests municipal boards of health with the broad authority for maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Regulations are promulgated under this act through 310 CMR 10.0.

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 131, Section 40: The Wetlands Protection Act (WPA) administered by conservation commissions on the municipal level and by the Department of Environmental Protection on the state level.

Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries Act: Administered by the Department of Environmental Management, the state law governing activities and structures in the ocean, seabed, or subsoil that would have an adverse affect on the "ecology or appearance" of the ocean sanctuary. Buzzards Bay is included in the Cape and Island Ocean Sanctuary.

Mean High Water: The average height of the high tides over a 19-year period.

Mean Low Water: The average height of the low tides over a 19-year period.

Mounded Septic System: Similar to a typical septic system except the leaching facility, in order to maintain an adequate separation to groundwater, is installed in mounded or filled material above the naturally occurring ground elevation. The mounds are typically planted with grass vegetation. In the velocity zone, some mounded systems are armored with rip rap, but this approach conflicts with CZM policies.

National Estuary Program (NEP): A state grant program within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established to designate estuaries of national significance and to incorporate scientific research into planning activities.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES): A requirement in the federal Clean Water Act for dischargers to obtain permits. EPA is responsible for administering this program in Massachusetts.

Nonpoint-Source Pollution: Pollution that is generated over a relatively wide area and dispersed rather than discharged from a pipe. Common sources of nonpoint pollution include stormwater runoff, failed septic systems, and marinas.

Notice of Intent: A form submitted to the municipal conservation commission and DEP which serves as the application for an Order of Conditions under the Wetlands Protection Act. It includes information on the site's wetland resources and the proposed work.

Nutrients: Essential chemicals needed by plants and animals for growth. Excessive amounts of nutrients, nitrogen, and phosphorus, for example, can lead to degradation of water quality and growth of excessive amounts of algae. Some nutrients can be toxic at high concentrations.

Order of Conditions: The document, issued by a conservation commission, containing conditions that regulate or prohibit an activity proposed in the resource area defined in MGL Chapter 131 185:40.

Pathogen: Any organism, but particularly bacteria and viruses, that causes disease. For example, human pathogens in shellfish can cause hepatitis and intestinal disorders.

Performance Standards: Federal, state, or local codified specifications that condition development activities to limit the extent to which a structure or activity may affect the immediate environment.

Petroleum Hydrocarbons: The mixture of hydrocarbons normally found in petroleum; includes hundreds of chemical compounds.

Point-Source Pollution: Pollution originating at a particular place, such as a sewage treatment plant, outfall, or other discharge pipe.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): A class of chlorinated aromatic compounds composed of two fused benzene rings and two or more chlorine atoms; used in heat exchange, insulating fluids and other applications. There are 209 different PCBs.

Porous Pavement: A hard surface that can support some vehicular activities, such as parking and light traffic, and which can also allow significant amounts of water to pass through.

Primary Treatment: Physical processes used to substantially remove floating and settleable solids in wastewater. This process can include screening, grit removal, and sedimentation.

Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW): Any sewage treatment system operated by a public agency.

Pumpout: The process through which septage is removed from a septic tank or boat holding tank, usually by a mobile tank attached to a truck, and taken to a wastewater treatment plant for disposal.

Request for Determination of Applicability: A written request made by any person to a conservation commission or to the Department of Environmental Protection for a determination as to whether a site or work on that site is subject to the Wetlands Protection Act

Runoff: The part of precipitation that travels overland and appears in surface streams or other receiving water bodies.

Salt Marsh: A coastal wetland that extends landward up to the highest high tide line, that is, the highest spring tide of the year, and is characterized by plants that are well adapted to living in saline soils.

Salt Pond: A shallow, enclosed or semiclosed saline water body that may be partially or totally restricted by barrier beach formation. Salt ponds may receive fresh water from small streams emptying into their upper reaches or groundwater springs in the salt pond itself.

Secondary Treatment: The process used to reduce the amount of dissolved organic matter and further reduce the amount of suspended solids and coliform in wastewater.

Septage: That material removed from any part of an individual sewage disposal system.

Septic System: A facility used for the partial treatment and disposal of sanitary wastewater, generated by individual homes or small business, into the ground. Includes both a septic tank and a leaching facility.

Septic Tank: A watertight receptacle that receives the discharge of sewage from a building sewer and is designed and constructed so as to permit the retention of scum and sludge, digestion of the organic matter, and discharge of the liquid portion to a leaching facility.

Sewerage/Sewage: Liquid or solid waste that is transported through drains or sewers to a wastewater treatment plant for processing.

Shellfish Bed: An area identified and designated by the Division of Marine Fisheries or conservation commissions as containing productive shellfish resource. Shellfish bed maps are based upon written documentation and field observations by the shellfish constable or other authoritative sources. In identifying such an area, the following factors shall be taken into account and documented: the density of all species of shellfish, the size of the area and the historical and current importance of the area to recreational or commercial shellfishing. Protecting designated shellfish beds may be an important consideration when local boards and state agencies review projects.

Shellfish Resource Area: An area, designated by the Division of Marine Fisheries, that contains productive shellfish beds, and used for establishing shellfish resource area closure boundaries.

Shellfish Resource Area Closures: Closure, due to potential health risks, of shellfish resource areas to shellfish harvesting. Closure decisions are made by the Division of Marine Fisheries, using a current standard that specifies that if the geometric mean of 15 samples equals or exceeds 14 fecal coliform per 100 milliliters of sample water or if 10% of the samples exceed 49 fecal coliform per 100 milliliters of sample water, the station can be closed. The five shellfish-bed classifications are approved, conditionally approved, restricted, conditionally restricted, and prohibited.

Sludge: Solid or semisolid material resulting from potable or industrial water supply treatment or sanitary or industrial wastewater treatment.

Soil Conservation Service (SCS): The Soil Conservation Service is a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that, among other things, provides technical assistance in resource management and planning and implementation of agricultural BMPs. SCS works closely with Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Services (ASCS) and County Extension Services to achieve their goals. [The agency is now known as NRCS.]

Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD): A regional planning agency to which all of the Buzzards Bay municipalities belong, except Bourne, Falmouth, and Gosnold (see Cape Cod Commission). The agency provides technical assistance, reviews projects for MEPA, coordinates inter-municipal activities, and acts a clearinghouse for regional information.

Spring Tides: Higher than normal high tides observed every 2 weeks when the earth and moon align.

Storm Drain: A system of gutters, pipes, or ditches used to carry stormwater from surrounding lands to streams, ponds, or Buzzards Bay. In practice, storm drains carry a variety of substances such as oil and antifreeze which enter the system through runoff, deliberate dumping, or spills. This term also refers to the end of the pipe where the stormwater is discharged.

Stormwater: Precipitation that is often routed into drain systems in order to prevent flooding.

Subdivision: A means for dividing a large parcel of land into more than one buildable lot, administered under MGL Chapter 41.

Superseding Determination: A Determination of Applicability issued by the Department of Environmental Protection deciding whether or not the area and activity are subject to the regulations under the Wetlands Protection Act.

Superseding Order of Conditions: A document issued by the regional office of the Department of Environmental Protection containing the conditions necessary for a project to proceed and still protect the interests and resource areas specified in the Wetlands Protection Act. These conditions supersede Orders of Conditions set by the local conservation commission unless the local order is also issued under the authorization of a local bylaw. These superseding orders can be requested by a number of people who may not be satisfied with the local Order of Conditions.

Suspended Solids: Organic or inorganic particles that are suspended in and carried by the water. The term includes sand, mud, and clay particles as well as organic solids in wastewater.

Swales: Vegetated areas used in place of curbs or paved gutters to transport stormwater runoff. They also can temporarily hold small quantities of runoff and allow it to infiltrate into the soil.

Tertiary Treatment: The wastewater treatment process that exceeds secondary treatment; could include nutrient or toxic removal.

Tidal Flat: Any nearly level part of the coastal beach, usually extending from the low water mark landward to the more steeply sloping seaward face of the coastal beach or separated from the beach by land under the ocean, as defined in 310 CMR 9:04.

Tidelands: All lands and waters between the high water mark and the seaward limit of the Commonwealth's jurisdiction, as defined in 310 CMR 9:04. Tidewaters are synonymous with tidelands.

Title 5: The state of Massachusetts regulations (CMR 15) that provide for minimum standards for the protection of public health and the environment when circumstances require the use of individual systems for the disposal of sanitary sewage. The local board of health is responsible for enforcement of these regulations and may upgrade them.

Total Nitrogen: A measure of all forms of nitrogen (for example, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia-N, and organic forms) that are found in a water sample.

Toxic: Poisonous, carcinogenic, or otherwise directly harmful to life.

Wastewater: Water that has come into contact with pollutants as a result of human activities and is not used in a product, but discharged as a waste stream.

Water Column: The water located vertically over a specific point or station.

Watercourse: Any natural or man-made stream, pond, lake, wetland, coastal wetland, swamp, or other body of water. This includes wet meadows, marshes, swamps, bogs, and areas where groundwater, flowing or standing surface water, or ice provide a significant part of the supporting substrate for a plant community for at least five months of the year, as defined in 310 CMR 15:01. Boards of Health can adopt the definition of wetlands in 310 CMR 10.0 or broader language in Title 5 as a "watercourse" in determining setbacks.

Wetlands: Habitats where the influence of surface water or groundwater has resulted in the development of plant or animal communities adapted to aquatic or intermittently wet conditions. Wetlands include tidal flats, shallow subtidal areas, swamps, marshes, wet meadows, bogs, and similar areas.

Wrack: Algae, plant and animal matter, and drift material (including solid wastes and other pollutants) that accumulate on beaches, usually at the high tide mark.

Zoning Bylaws: Local laws that designate areas of land for different uses at established densities. These bylaws require a two-thirds majority vote of town meeting or city council.




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