In 1987, concerned Oyster Pond residents joined the Falmouth Pond Watchers, a program that used volunteers to collect samples to monitor the water quality health of estuaries in Falmouth. The Town of Falmouth joined with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to study the problems of deteriorating water quality in the estuaries in Falmouth. Skyrocketing housing development in Falmouth and Cape Cod in the 1970s and 1980s with its backyard septic systems caused a substantial increase in nitrogen in estuaries.
Sampling was initially in June, July, August, and September, but analysis revealed that testing in July and August would be enough. Samples are now taken just twice in July and twice in August. The sampling continues with the School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) at U Mass Dartmouth. Four stations, spread across the pond, are sampled at various depths. (An article about the Falmouth Pond Watchers appeared in the Falmouth Enterprise Aug 15, 1988, “Sample From Oyster Pond Resembles Pink Lemonade.”)
The testing led to a management plan for the pond the preparation of which was the initial goal of Pond Watchers. The testing revealed that Oyster Pond has a fresh water layer on top of saltier, heavier water on the bottom. This saltier water had little to no oxygen, making it impossible for fish to live there. The management plan called for controlling the salinity of the pond at 2-4 ppt and lowering the boundary of the salt water as much as possible (by comparison Vineyard Sound is 32 ppt salinity). To do this, it would be necessary to limit the influx of ocean water. OPET worked with Dr. Brian Howes to design and build the weir that is now in place at the outlet of the pond. This work was funded by a Town Meeting article. By adjusting the height of the boards in the weir’s openings, only the highest high tides can enter the pond thus limiting the amount of salt water entering the pond. (Falmouth Enterprise November 27, 1989, “Falmouth Pond Watchers Are Troubled by the Evidence that Pollution is Widespread.”)
Several reports were published documenting the falling water quality. This dataset was used as a basis for the Massachusetts Estuaries Project for Oyster Pond.