51.8 F
Oak Bluffs, US

To Sewer: Pro

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.

The negative effects of nitrogen overloading in Lagoon Pond are extensive. Excess nitrogen causes increased algae growth which in turn depletes oxygen which in turn kills eel grass which in turn limits the amount of shellfish habitat and structure for bait fish/aquatic insects which in turn kills the shellfish which in turns does not attract game fish and so on and so on. As the marine life of the pond is depleted, what happens to the surrounding property values? Oh yes, it does circle back around to property values. (See Page 3) So what are the options?

1. Enlarge the present sewer treatment facilities for OB and VH and run collection lines to every home in the watershed

2. Design and install smaller package treatment plants that collect and only treat the effluent from septic tanks (solids remain on site in a septic tank and get pumped out periodically). This also requires installation of collection lines.

3. Require all homes in the watershed to upgrade to an enhanced nitrogen removing system(Bioclere®, MicroFast® or similar)

4. Do nothing

Since #4 is not an option and #3 does not sufficiently reduce the nitrogen levels, we are back to the original question:

Can we afford to not sewer? NO! Sewering is the best option to protect the health of Lagoon Pond! The Lagoon Pond Association Board of Directors supports the installation of sewers in the Lagoon Pond Watershed.
Doug Reece

To Sewer: Con