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Barnstable County Commissioners Reaffirm Opposition to Proposed Machine Gun Range Above Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve 

Barnstable County Awards Dennis $619,463 American Rescue Plan Act Grant to Improve Water Quality 

March 15, 2023 (BARNSTABLE, MA) – Today the Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners reaffirmed their opposition to the proposed multi-machine gun range at the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s Joint Base Cape Cod above the Upper Cape water supply reserve and their commitment to protecting the area’s vital water supply reserves. In September 2021, the Commissioners sent a letter to state regulators expressing their opposition. 

Barnstable County Commissioners oppose the proposed $11.5 million machine gun range because of its potential to contaminate the region’s single source aquifer.  Military training activities involving weapons such as machine guns, 12-gauge shotguns, grenade launchers, and pistols are expected to take place on this site, which is already suffering from past military activity that has caused significant cost to taxpayers in cleanup measures. This issue has drawn sharp criticism from environmental organizations and residents who feel their health may be put at risk with additional pollution or contamination concerns resulting from these planned exercises. 

Chairman Mark Forest underscored the poor choice of location for this gun range saying, “Underneath the reserve is the largest freshwater aquifer lens on Cape Cod. So, the drinking water for Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee, Sandwich, Barnstable, and Yarmouth all flows from the reservoir that is beneath this property, and that particular [gun] range is in the middle of the highest point. So, in my estimation, it is probably one of the worst places to build a facility that can put a water supply at risk.” 

In other news, the County Commissioners authorized the award and execution of an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant in the amount of $619,463 to the Town of Dennis to fund water quality projects that will focus on the town’s impaired water bodies and meet the requirements of the 208 Plan and MS4 permit.  The projects will include constructing natural solutions to improve infiltration, increase flood control capacity, and improve resiliency. The ARPA funds will provide the matching funds needed for grants intended for water quality improvement projects. 

Elizabeth Sullivan, Administrator for the Town of Dennis thanked the County Commissioners and county staff. She noted the uniqueness of the Dennis project and said, “… we will be able to use these ARPA funds for a number of wastewater and stormwater projects.”  Ms. Sullivan added “we are using these funds in Dennis to leverage millions of dollars in grant opportunities, some of them we know we are getting and some of them we have been shortlisted while we identify our match. I can’t thank you all enough.” 

To date Barnstable County has awarded $8,173,068.92 million in ARPRA grants to Cape towns.  

Paul Ruszala, P.E., Barnstable County’s Asset and Infrastructure Manager, briefed the Board on the status of identification and clean-up of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at the former fire training site.  Mr. Ruszala highlighted details such as routine PFAS sampling, groundwater pump and treat system performance, an access agreement with Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife, discussions with Hyannis Airport and Barnstable Fire District, new PFAS exploration work, coordination with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and budget planning.  

In his update to the County Commissioners, Robert Cox Jr., Special Legal Counsel for Barnstable County on environmental matters related to the County’s former fire training site, stated that in 2017 Barnstable County initiated one of the first PFAS claims in the country against prominent manufacturers such as 3M and Dupont, as well as distributors and sellers of the controversial firefighting foam AFFF, notorious for contaminating drinking water.  When the matter gained considerable notice and developed into multidistrict litigation, the County’s claim was transferred to South Carolina for further investigation in December 2018.  To date, over 3,000 distinct claims, mainly from counties and municipalities, have been filed and are part of ongoing litigation.   

Vaira Harik, Assistant County Administrator and Kate Lena, Program Manager at the Department of Human Services provided an update on the National Opioid Settlement Funds including an update on Barnstable County’s funds and its process, timeline, and priorities for spending, as well as the advisory role the County is undertaking. The opioid settlements, led by Attorney General Maura Healey, resulted in over $26 billion in national payouts and over $500 million to Massachusetts. At this point, the agreement includes Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Johnson & Johnson, and most recently added: Walmart, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Allergen, CVS, and Walgreens. These five additional settlements will send an estimated $420 million to the Commonwealth. To join this second settlement, interested municipalities must submit participation forms to the state by April 18, 2023.   

Leslie Dominguez-Santos, Coordinator, and Jeanne Morrison, Chair of the Barnstable County Human Rights Advisory Commission (BCHRAC) updated the Board on the work of the Commissions, highlighting events such as the Human Rights Academy and ongoing efforts to educate the community.  Human rights concerns highlighted by data collected in 2022 will inform the BCHRAC’s education and outreach for the upcoming year. 

Sonja Sheasley, Communications Manager at Barnstable County, discussed the upcoming celebration of National County Government Month during April 2023. Ms. Sheasley has plans to launch a campaign bolstering awareness of Barnstable County’s role, specifically around water quality initiatives on Cape Cod. April’s theme, “Barnstable County is Protecting Cape Cod’s Water,” will feature a landing page on with posts, calls to action, tips, and trivia throughout April; a welcome video featuring Commissioners will be recorded, as well as public service announcements aired on local radio. Details about an art contest for Grades 1–12 will be forthcoming to the public later this month, in addition to calls to action for residents to organize beach and trail cleanups and volunteer for AmeriCorps Cape Cod’s Canal Clean-up with the Army Corps of Engineers on Earth Day, April 22. The Board of Regional Commissioners, the Assembly of Delegates, and all County employees are invited to join in championing these efforts during the month of April. 

THE PUBLIC IS INVITED TO WATCH OR JOIN A FUTURE COMMISSIONERS’ MEETING Members of the public are encouraged to visit the Barnstable County Meeting Center at to access the Commissioners’ calendar, meeting agendas, information on how to participate, or links to the live-streamed meetings on YOUTUBE.  Barnstable County provides reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities upon request. Contact Justyna Marczak, Barnstable County ADA/Non-Discrimination Coordinator, at or call 508-375-6646. 

ABOUT BARNSTABLE COUNTY REGIONAL GOVERNMENT OF CAPE COD Barnstable County provides exemplary government functions and services to keep our community healthy and safe, promote sustainable growth, and offer a proactive, open government that enhances the quality of life for the citizens of Barnstable County. Learn more at