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Cape Cod’s waters are at risk from nitrogen pollution but the region’s towns have been slow to implement solutions.
Ineffective septic tanks release high levels of nitrogen in wastewater which can cause toxic algae outbreaks in the Cape’s waters, which in turn place people at risk, harm fish and wildlife, and dampen tourism. CLF released the following statement in response to today’s news.
“Pollution from septic tanks has pushed Cape Cod’s waters to the brink of disaster,” said CLF attorney Maggie Nivison. “Toxic algae outbreaks destroy our waters, sicken people, and threaten the Cape’s critical tourism economy. The state has finally taken this crisis seriously, and these new rules are a tremendous first step in finally combatting this pervasive problem.”
“The Hyannis wastewater plant is dumping sewage and pollutants directly into the ground, which invariably reaches nearby ponds, bays, and streams. Barnstable officials are running the Town’s sewage facility without a federal permit and have taken little action to stem this crisis and protect the Cape’s waters. We need to solve this problem once and for all, as the region’s bays and ponds are heading past the point of no return.”
Christopher Kilian is a lawyer at the Conservation Law Foundation, a nonprofit that sued the state and Mashpee, arguing that Massachusetts law makes it illegal for towns to allow septic tanks that directly or indirectly release pollutants, including nitrogen, into surface water.
“Rather than leaving it to individual homeowners to upgrade their septic systems, communities should look at what’s happening in their watershed,” said Nivison. “That is going to be the least heavy lift for homeowners, and it should be the most efficient way to get those waters as clean as possible as soon as possible.”
“Septic pollution is driving Cape Cod’s waters to disaster,” said Christopher Kilian, Vice President of Strategic Litigation at CLF. “The state has finally taken this concern seriously, but we will be reviewing the proposal to assure that it is strong and effective in solving this problem. Toxic nitrogen pollution destroys our waters, sickens people, and threatens the region’s tourism economy, and it has no place in Cape Cod’s waters.”
The past year has shown us what we can accomplish when faced with unprecedented upheaval. Now we are focused on driving forward a future that is equitable and healthy for all – while also confronting the most urgent environmental threats in the here and now. The work we do together in the next five years… Continue reading Conservation Matters Summer 2021: Year in Review
“Unfortunately, rather than stop the problem, the DEP and the towns are continuing to approve and authorize systems that are known to pollute and don’t work on the Cape,” Kilian said.
“People come to the Cape from throughout the world because of its amazing natural resources and water quality,” Kilian said. “The unfortunate reality is that we’re killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”