The tools we need to clean up our wastewater

by Dan Wolf

Sun, 02/03/2013


We've reached a major milestone and achievement in the long effort to address Cape Cod's most serious environmental challenge.

In January, the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust approved $3.35 million to fund the creation of a comprehensive Cape Cod Wastewater Plan. The Cape Cod Commission will oversee this effort in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, a comprehensive study likely to take more than a year, producing a plan that looks at wastewater watershed by watershed, region by region, town by town.

Finally, we will have clear direction and a strong sense about tactics as well as cost. We'll know where homeowners likely will continue using their own septic systems. We'll know where alternative and decentralized treatment systems make the most sense. And we'll know where larger, centralized plants are needed to return our bays and ponds to health.

We'll also have a clear idea how much all of this will cost, which will allow us to make the strongest possible case at both state and federal levels that Cape Cod deserves and needs financial support to accomplish our goals.

This funding and strong show of support is proof positive that Governor Deval Patrick and Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rick Sullivan understand that Cape Cod's wastewater crisis is one of the most important environmental challenges in all of Massachusetts. I thank them both for their partnership, and leadership.

And this couldn't have happened without the entire Cape delegation at the State House, especially Senate President Therese Murray, joining forces to make a compelling case for regional planning to make sure that local action, community by community, gets the best possible results.

Last but far from least, kudos to all the citizen activists up and down the peninsula who have been working long and hard to keep this issue front and center. Their work is far from over, but my hope is that together, we can leave a profound legacy for future generations: Cape Cod restored to health, with bays, estuaries, and ponds once again sparkling and pristine.

Here are goals of the new plan:

- Achieve greatest economies of scale, and identify methods to share costs equitably

- Evaluate decentralized and innovative approaches more fully, as well as continued use of conventional septic systems where appropriate

- Limit the amount of infrastructure needed to improve or restore water quality by prioritizing watersheds that would benefit from shared systems regardless of town boundaries

- Prioritize water resources, identify the most impaired or endangered, and specify local actions needed to achieve water quality goals as quickly as possible

I look forward to continuing to work with everyone and anyone interested in restoring our environment to good health. I firmly believe we can succeed.