Challenges Facing the Cape Cod Aquifer
Author: David Dow
I have been asked by the Social & Environmental Action Committee (SEAC) of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth (UU Falmouth) to develop this series of five installments on: “The Challenges Facing the Cape Cod Aquifer”. The Cape Cod Glacial Aquifer is a continuous aquifer system underlying Cape Cod Peninsula. It is the primary source of drinking water for the Cape. Its contamination creates a significant hazard to public health. That contamination is caused by a variety of sources which I describe in this series.
The five installments in this series include an Introduction and detail in four major areas: Water Quantity; Nutrient Pollution; Toxic Chemical Contamination; and Climate Change Effects on the Aquifer. The articles include an overview of the key challenges and an additional Resources Section for those desiring more information. Since UU Falmouth is located within the Waquoit Bay Watershed, I am using it as a case study for the series. The additional resources include the EPA Waquoit Bay Watershed Ecological Risk Assessment which I worked on as a member of Research Planning and Coordination at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.
I hope you find this series useful and that it provides you with the information you need to understand the significant challenges of the Aquifer. I encourage you to seek out ways to take action and support the efforts already underway to save our water, now and for future generations.
Challenges Facing the Cape Cod Aquifer First Installment:
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth’s Social and Environmental Justice Action Committee (UU Falmouth SEAC) has asked me to develop a series of short pieces on the “Cape Cod Aquifer Challenges”. In the first installment, I wanted to define what constitutes a watershed approach using the Waquoit Bay Watershed as an example. The Sagamore Lens for groundwater runs from the Upper to Mid-Cape regions and is composed of multiple, separate waterbeds.
Challenges Facing the Cape Cod Aquifer Installment 2: Water Quantity:
As was pointed out in Installment one on Upper Cape Cod Aquifer, the Sagamore Lens includes a number of separate watersheds in which we choose the Waquoit Bay watershed as a case study. The geological history of Cape Cod and its relationship to Hydrology has been the subject of studies by the US Geological. Survey who work with the Cape Cod Commission and Town Drinking Water & Wastewater Districts to convert this scientific information (monitoring and research) into policy and guidance at the grassroots Level. The attached references can provide examples on this scientific studies on how the Cape Cod Aquifer inland groundwater operates and projected effects along the coast of future changes in the water table as a result of Relative Sea Level Rise and climate change (the latter is covered separately in installment 5).
Challenges Facing the Cape Cod Aquifer Installment 3: Nutrient Pollution:
Increasing levels of phosphorus in freshwater kettle hole ponds and nitrogen in coastal embayments from human activities in our watersheds has led to water quality problems (low dissolved oxygen levels in the bottom waters during the summer and diminished water clarity) and loss of habitats for aquatic wildlife. In Falmouth we have 14 “N” sensitive coastal watersheds, which have to be addressed via its Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plans (CWMP) to reduce excess nutrients generated by septic systems. Falmouth has 13 “N” sensitive watersheds that need to be addressed via Targeted Watershed Management Plans (TWMPs). The Waquoit Bay Watershed is shared by Falmouth, Mashpee and Sandwich which have their own CWMP endeavors that need to be integrated for this watershed.
Challenges Facing the Cape Cod Aquifer Installment 4: Toxic Chemicals
Recently I was drafting comments on the Town of Falmouth Notice Project Change 3 Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan for reducing “Nitrogen loading” from septic systems. Since Massachusetts DEP had recently issued a drinking water maximum contaminant (mcl) level of 20 parts per trillion for the sum of 6 perfluoinrinated chemicals (PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFDA, PFHpA and PFHxS), I felt that it made sense to integrate town efforts to reduce nutrient and toxic chemicals in both drinking water and grey/black waste water. As part of this process I checked the Environment Working Group (EWG) website for the toxic chemicals in Slidell, La. (where I used to live) with Falmouth, Ma. I was surprised to find that Falmouth drinking water had roughly 75% more toxic chemicals in its groundwater drinking water sources than Slidell. Louisiana (in spite of oil/gas extraction and waste disposal in the latter).