“I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance at survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.” -E.B. White

All spring and summer I helped my mother edit and pack up her home of 20+ years in Bethel, Maine. The 4.5 hour drive back and forth from Mashpee gave us lots of time to talk about the present as well as imagine her future without my father. I was so relieved when we finally found her a house just a month ago in Cotuit, far enough away from any body of water to effect her real estate value.

For months there’s been lots of lessons learned about selling as well as buying a house during a pandemic. Not just the fact that people are strangely panicking selling and buying houses with price tags that will change our local economy for many years to come, but for how little they are thinking about the future…and our collective water. Who are the people buying the homes now along our ponds? I think of that every time I see a For Sale sign along Cataquin and John’s Pond here in my neighborhood in Mashpee. I hope with every bone in my body they will become good stewards for the ponds and that “beautiful” won’t entail a fertilized lawn going all the way down to the water’s edge. Mashpee has some of the worst water quality on Cape Cod as of the writing of this. The Mashpee Enterprise recently reported that John’s Pond, which I live on, to be the 3rd worst body of fresh water in town.

At this point in our environmental present how could you buy a house without asking questions about the town? Without understanding wastewater and septic issues the town is facing? How about if the pond down the street that looked pretty on Zillow is having issues with cyanobacteria? Are you looking? Are you asking those questions? Maybe these are things you never thought about. If you are reading this on the APCC site or newsletter, my guess is that I am probably preaching to the choir, but maybe not.

I’ve given it considerable amounts of quiet time as I’ve watched the ponds dying all around me. I grew up on Shubael Pond in Marstons Mills, a kettle hole pond stocked with Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Golden Shiner, Banded Killifish, and more. Fish you would never want to eat now. Water, you don’t want your children or dog to go near for all the cyanobacteria.
Now the Friends of Shubael Pond and The Shubael Pond Project are installing a cluster of up to 40 Innovative/alternative (I/A) septic systems they hope will reduce nitrogen in household wastewater going into the pond. It’s a test with sewering as this location is not scheduled to get municipal sewering for decades. You will hear people argue about their efficacy but with existing septic systems that are “near the end of their expected useful life of 20-25 years,” abutting the ponds and part of the watershed, it’s time to get radical to save a pond. To save all ponds.

If I told you the myths we believed in as kids swimming across Shubael from the bottom of Willimantic Drive to Fair Acres on dares, you might also believe that the 40 foot deep pond also contained a mutant snapping turtle ready to devour the swimmers going over the deepest, coldest depths. But apparently, that’s not what we should have been worrying about.

Got a Pond Story you want to share? Email Kristin Andres at kandres@apcc.org

Pond Stories are a collection of writings from Cape Codders and visitors who love the 1000 local ponds that dot the Cape. We hope this collection of stories, that are as much endearing as they are environmentally aware, will awaken your inner environmentalist to think deeper about our human impacts to these unique bodies of water. Check out these valuable resources to learn more about the current challenges Cape Cod ponds are facing and how you can be a better pond steward in your town.