Why all the talk about wastewater?
  1. What is the problem?

    In recent years, excessive levels of nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, have resulted in eutrophication (i.e. algal blooms) in several of the town's surface water bodies. These events are predominately caused by nitrogen originating from onsite wastewater systems (fully functioning Title 5 septic systems, cesspool systems, etc.) in the areas that contribute groundwater to saltwater estuaries or harbors known as a watershed. Similarly, watersheds that contribute surface water or ground water to ponds can convey too much phosphorus to freshwater ponds. Excessive amounts of these nutrients causes the algal blooms resulting in an unhealthy environment.
  2. What proof is there that a problem exists?

    In some instances, waters are periodically covered with mats of algae, smell like decaying fish, and therefore do not support the ecology of the Cape. For example, in 2009, an algal bloom occurred in Swan Pond creating aesthetically displeasing waters, fish kills due to depleted oxygen levels in the pond, and an odor that permeated the neighborhood for weeks. Shellfish crops also continue to decline.
  3. Why is the problem arising now and a bigger issue on Cape Cod than other communities?

    Cape Cod has less than four % of the Massachusetts population but 20% of the septic systems in the state. The rapid population growth on the Cape over the past 50 years has resulted in excessive nutrient loading in surface and groundwater, largely from manmade sources, has migrated to the region's estuaries, particularly those downstream of highly developed or populated areas. Over time, nutrients build up within an estuary as a result of limited flushing.
  4. If our drinking water is safe, what's the problem?

    Public health-related nitrate thresholds (10 mg/l) are ten times higher than the thresholds established for healthy estuarine ecosystems (typically 0.5 mg/l or lower); therefore, it is common to meet drinking water standards while still greatly exceeding the nitrogen levels in groundwater required to protect the saltwater environment. Freshwater bodies and groundwater supply wells are more resilient to nitrogen impacts than saltwater embayments.

    The freshwater shorelines are classified as "coastal plain pondshores," which provide habitat to rare and endangered plants and animals. As water quality declines, the tourist industry will decline as well. Property values and tax revenues in coastal areas will decline, and the burden of maintaining town services will shift inland, to those who can least afford it.
  5. What if our town sticks with the status quo and does nothing?

    We have seen a decline in the quality of our water resources and we cannot ignore this situation any longer. Our quality of life is being impacted. Our tourist economy will be impacted. The cost to address the issues will only increase and should not be left solely to future generations to address. If the town does not initiate this project on its own terms, the project could be forced upon us by regulators, such as the Cape Cod Commission. In this case, local residents will have less say on important issues regarding cost, traffic disruption, the timeline and economic redevelopment.

Show All Answers

1. Why all the talk about wastewater?
2. I thought Title 5 septic systems solved the issue of increased nutrient loading from wastewater on groundwater?
3. What are the nitrogen levels?
4. What solutions to wastewater contamination are being considered for Dennis?
5. Do septic systems impair our fresh water bodies?
6. What is the Cape Cod Commission 208 plan?
7. What are funding impacts?
8. How many phases will there be in the 40 year sewer project?