Conservation Law Foundation Files Federal Lawsuits Against Two Harwich Resorts


HARWICH – Federal lawsuits have been filed against two Harwich resorts for alleged pollution of Wychmere Harbor and Pleasant Bay.

The Conservation Law Foundation claims the Wychmere Beach Club and the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club are illegally discharging nitrogen into the water which can fuel algae outbreaks, along with killing eel grass, shellfish and other fish species.

Vice President of Strategic Litigation for the CLF Christopher Kilian said they are arguing that the resorts are violating federal law.

“The contaminants and nitrogen from their wastewater treatment systems are discharged into the bays and they don’t have a federal permit for that,” Kilian said. “So we are arguing that they are violating the federal Clean Water Act.”

According to the foundation, the Wychmere Beach Club and Wequassett Resort can discharge 45,000 and 80,000 gallons of sewage per day, respectively, into leaching fields designed to allow nitrogen and other pollutants to seep into the soil and groundwater. Polluted groundwater then flows into nearby bays threatening plant and animal life.

“[For] Cape Cod, the foundation of the economy and one of the reasons so many people want to go there is clean water so we are looking to address that,” Kilian said.

The CLF is pressing the resorts to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

“The good news is that there are solutions, there are technologies that can be put in place that will reduce the amount of nitrogen dramatically from these systems and we are hopeful that is what the court will require,” Kilian said.

The CLF is open to discussing settlement solutions with the resorts as well.

Kilian said there are dozens similarly situated resort facilities on the Cape Cod and did not rule out future legal action against them.

“In the end if we want clean water on Cape Cod and we want these bays to be restored, and unfortunately it is a restoration problem at this point, we don’t have 30 years to wait and we need to get moving on actually getting nitrogen out of the water,” Kilian said.

Lawyer Andrew Singer, who represents the Wequassett Resort, said the club has not been officially served with a lawsuit at this time and found out about the lawsuit through a CLF press release.

“The resort remains perplexed regarding the allegations raised in the press release because the resort believes it is fully compliant with all governing bodies for its wastewater treatment system,” Singer said.

The CLF sent a letter to Wequassett Resort earlier this summer announcing its concerns that it was considering legal action. The letter also indicated that the organization would like to meet with resort officials to discuss the pollution issues.

“We sent a letter to the CLF at the end of July saying that we would be more than happy to meet with them to demonstrate how the resort is actively promoting the protection of Pleasant Bay and the environment,” Singer said.

The resort did not receive a response from the CLF regarding a meeting.

“The first thing we have since heard was the press release from late last week,” Singer said.

Singer said the resort will take the necessary steps to defend themselves if it is served with a notice of a federal lawsuit.

Wychmere Beach Club had no immediate comment.

The CLF was the organization that sued Barnstable County and the EPA over nitrogen loading issues that led to the creation of the 208 Plan to deal with wastewater issues.

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