Through its Cape-wide planning, economic development, regulatory, and environmental protection role, the Cape Cod Commission is involved with critically important analyses and the creation of plans and methods to address environmental, economic, social, political, and legal problems associated with Cape Cod's land use issues. Wastewater management is one of the most significant of those challenges, and it increasingly threatens the region's beauty, health, and prosperity.
The majority of watersheds on Cape Cod receive wastewater with excessive nitrogen—primarily from individual on-site residential septic systems—that flows through groundwater into our coastal waters, and that amount of nitrogen is ruining the ecology of those coastal areas.
To date, a fragmented approach has characterized the response to this challenge. Each of the 15 Cape Cod towns has engaged in the existing regulatory process and approached the problem on its own turf, with its own resources, for its own benefit—in some cases, to the collective detriment. This makes little sense when watersheds are shared across town boundaries. It is inherently more expensive to solve the wastewater management problem on a town-by-town basis. A solution to the problem on a watershed-by-watershed basis is needed. In addition, changes to the existing federal, state, regional, and local regulatory environment and more creative financing options will be necessary to implement plans and solutions more effectively.
A federally mandated program to solve the problem could be the outcome of current legal challenges facing Cape Cod. The program would surely be bureaucratic, conventional, expensive, and out of place here. In the absence of a federal mandate, the problem will likely continue as is, with communities struggling in a piecemeal fashion to identify solutions and raise the capital needed to implement them. The tax burden for homeowners would increase, the value of properties would decrease, and the ecological degradation would continue, with a resulting major impact on tourism. Most importantly, individual solutions would miss the mark for the shared water resources we all treasure.
Cape Cod is unlike other areas of Massachusetts, and the Cape Cod Commission's approach to the Regional Wastewater Management Plan (RWMP) is unlike solutions offered elsewhere. Here we have created a policy framework and developed a set of tools to help Cape communities identify not just one potential solution but several viable solutions for each watershed—an approach that will remedy the ecological problem and will spare each taxpayer's wallet unnecessary expenses.
Support the completion of remaining Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) reports
Monitor evolving legal challenges to ensure adequate response via Cape-wide and local actions
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