EPA Approves Plan to Protect Cape Cod Waters

By ecoRI News staff

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved an updated plan from the commonwealth of Massachusetts that creates a “robust” framework for Cape Cod communities to reduce nitrogen levels that are currently harming ecological health of ponds, bays and other surface waters.

The Cape Cod Water Quality Management Plan Update submitted by Massachusetts is consistent with provisions in the federal Clean Water Act, according to the EPA. The federal agency has also approved the designation by the state for the Cape’s towns to act as waste management agencies, giving them the authority to take necessary actions under the plan. This designation includes the towns of Barnstable, Brewster, Bourne, Chatham, Dennis, Eastham, Falmouth, Harwich, Mashpee, Orleans, Provincetown, Sandwich, Truro, Wellfleet and Yarmouth.

“While being green is good, that’s not true when it comes to our watersheds,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “This plan gives Cape communities the tools they need to design and implement local solutions across watershed boundaries.”

Cape Cod is experiencing wide-spread pollution problems because too much nitrogen is getting into ponds, lakes and bays. Excess nitrogen results in algal blooms, degraded ecological vitality, loss of habitat and reduced recreational opportunities, according to the EPA. Studies indicate that Cape Cod waters need nitrogen reductions of up to 87 percent.

The economy of Cape Cod relies heavily on a clean and healthy environment to support tourism, fishing, shellfisheries and numerous recreational pursuits. This economic foundation is threatened by degraded water quality because of excessive nutrients, especially nitrogen, according to officials.

“In many Cape Cod communities, nitrogen discharges contaminate local water bodies and bays, threatening the environment, the economy and the tourism industry in one of the most beautiful places on earth,” said state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “This plan will help communities develop the most effective and affordable solutions to this problem. As part of the plan, the administration is committed to funding a monitoring initiative that will ensure that this vital work makes a difference on Cape Cod for generations to come.”