This is a question that is being discussed by town officials and environmentalists across the Cape and the Islands. The easy answer to this question is “No, the cost is prohibitive”. But the real answer is best ascertained by asking another question. “Can we afford to NOT sewer”?
All southeastern Massachusetts coastal communities are dealing with an overload of nitrogen in area saltwater ponds, not just the Vineyard. Subsequently, there is an abundance of research already being done.
Nitrogen enters the watershed of our ponds in many ways; some are controllable, some are not. According to the Massachusetts Estuary Project Study for Lagoon Pond, over 76% of the “controllable nitrogen” entering the groundwater comes from septic systems while the other contributors are lawn fertilizers, agricultural fertilizer and livestock runoff and storm water runoff from impervious surfaces. The study further explains that the TMDL (total maximum daily load) has exceeded tolerable levels in Lagoon Pond and “In order to restore and protect this embayment system, Nitrogen loadings, and subsequently the concentrations of Nitrogen in the water, must be reduced to levels below the thresholds that cause the observed environmental impacts”. Simply put, we must stop depositing unacceptable levels of nitrogen into our groundwater now, not later.