State and Towns Failing to Protect Cape Cod Water

CLF files lawsuit as wastewater systems continue to pollute bays and ponds

Aerial view of algae mats in Prince Cove (north of North Bay) in Marston Mills, Massachusetts.

Aerial view of algae mats in Marston Mills, Massachusetts. Photo: EcoPhotography

June 16, 2021 (BOSTON, MA) – Pollution from wastewater systems across Cape Cod has led to toxic algae outbreaks in the region’s waters, which sicken people and animals, degrade habitats, and threaten the tourism economy the area depends on. Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, as well as the Towns of Mashpee and Barnstable, to put an end to this harmful pollution.

“For years, our state and local leaders have allowed wastewater systems to cause the scourge of toxic algae in Cape Cod’s bays and ponds,” said Christopher Kilian, Vice President of Strategic Litigation at CLF. “It’s time to turn off the tap and stop the flow of wastewater pollution into the Cape’s waters. Residents and visitors deserve to enjoy healthy bays and ponds, and officials need to solve this problem once and for all”

CLF’s lawsuit demands a temporary suspension of any new septic systems and system inspections that support sales of properties that use septic on Cape Cod until this widespread problem can be fixed. The Cape’s wastewater systems contribute large amounts of nitrogen pollution to the area’s waterways. This type of pollution fuels toxic algae outbreaks that can sicken people, degrade habitats and beaches, and kill wildlife and pets. Algae outbreaks also force the closure of ponds and beaches each year, which harms the local economy and dampens tourism. The lawsuit calls on DEP and the Towns to tighten regulations to require modern nitrogen-reducing wastewater systems for both new development and as upgrades to existing systems.

You can find an interactive map of the pollution on Cape Cod here, along with a video that explains how widespread this problem is here.

The lawsuit can be found here.

CLF experts are available for further comment.