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Healey-Driscoll Administration Finalizes Transformative Watershed Protection Rules for Cape Cod

On June 21, 2023, the Healey-Driscoll Administration announced the final regulations that will set Cape Cod on a path to reverse decades of nitrogen pollution and restore estuaries to their natural state. The regulations, issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environment Protection (MassDEP), address elevated nitrogen levels from primarily septic systems and facilitate community-wide solutions to prevent excessive nutrient-loading of local waterbodies.

The discharge of excessive nutrients, especially nitrogen, primarily from septic systems has been an ongoing problem on the Cape. Elevated levels of nitrogen in waterbodies causes accelerated growth of nuisance plants, weeds, and algae that use up much of the oxygen in the water and force out indigenous fish and plant species. Waterbodies often also experience a displeasing cloudy green coloring and unpleasant smell.

Watershed Permitting regulations are a new, innovative approach to address these challenges and will give communities on the Cape a strategy to improve and restore area waterways to their natural state. The Watershed Permit is a 20-year permit that enables communities to design and implement wastewater solutions tailored to the specific watersheds and communities’ needs. Watershed Permits will enable communities to implement a range of strategies to reduce nitrogen pollution, including centralized wastewater treatment and alternative approaches, such as aquaculture, innovative and alternative septic systems, permeable reactive barrier walls, and fertilizer reduction. Implementation of long-term wastewater plans is the most efficient and effective way to address these water quality challenges. Communities across the Cape have already been working on Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plans that feature a variety of nitrogen-reducing strategies. 

The following excerpt was taken from the 6/21/23 Press Release from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. To read the press release in its entirety, please visit Healey-Driscoll Administration Finalizes Transformative Watershed Protection Rules for Cape Cod |