Cape Cod wastewater environmental issues
If this problem is not managed right away, it is very likely that it will affect the shell fishing industry, the tourist economy and the beaches that attract so many tourists during the summer season. More than 60 ponds and estuaries on the cape have been dimmed by algae and seaweed. Their multiplication is favored by the nitrogen which is coming mostly from the septic system wastewater which is leaking through the sandy soil into the estuaries. The Cape Cod towns have spent many years trying to fix their polluted waterways by using sewers and clustered septic systems, but they have failed so far to keep the situation under control. Maggie Geist from the Association to Preserve Cape Cod says that this problem has been kept in the dark for a long time although this has been the biggest environmental issue that the cape has ever been forced to deal with.
The problem started 30 years ago, when the towns chose not to install sewers when the government helped subsidize them in the 1960s and ’70s, because they feared that the area will become overpopulated. But people moved to this area anyway and started using individual septic systems to get rid of waste, which added to the gravity of the problem. The excess of nitrogen could decimate the shellfish beds and to the over spreading of the algae which will eventually kill the fish because of oxygen lacking. The bays will be invaded by the seaweed which rots in the summer, and its spreading will not only affect the environment, but also the property values from that area.
The Orleans response to the wastewater problem was a 150 million dollars plan which was sketched a few years ago and approved at a town meeting, but many residents consider that it needs revising before being financed from the taxpayers’ money. The septic systems used now deposit wastewater, a mixture of urine and water, into a leach field. But because of the soils’ sandy consistence, the wastewater eventually reaches the bays. The most severely affected areas are the protected bays and saltwater ponds from the southern side of the cape because the tide is not that strong so that it can flush away the nitrogen. Some of the areas of Falmouth have already been closed for shellfishingpe since many years ago because of the high nitrogen level. Sometimes during the summer, especially in August, the smell accompanies the issue because the algae dries creating an unpleasant odors that has started driving the tourists away. Besides fighting this problem, the residents of the cape are also fighting among themselves because some of them d not want to pay for the new system since they not all get sewers.11