State could survey more Bourne watersheds for nitrogen pollution

BUZZARDS BAY — Bourne officials are asking the state to assess nitrogen impacts in four coastal areas to gather data for changes to the city’s comprehensive wastewater management plan, according to the president of the city. Sewer Commission, Mary Jane Mastrangelo.

Mastrangelo said critical status data is an imperative for the coastline when it comes to nitrogen reduction. Areas likely to be involved are the ports of Red Brook and Pocasset, as well as the Pocasset River and Hen Cove, she said.

Bourne selectmen acting as sewer commissioners have set up a Pocasset Water Quality Association request to assign “Total Maximum Daily Load” classifications to the four zones.

Water quality measurements are needed on four other coastal areas

“Total Maximum Daily Load” is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can accept while still meeting state water quality standards for public health and the health of ecosystems, according to state records.

The U.S. Clean Water Act requires states to identify water bodies and coastal areas that do not meet water quality standards, as well as the pollutants that affect them.

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The council voted 5-0 on Aug. 30 to order City Manager Marlene McCollem to write a letter asking the state Department of Environmental Protection to undertake nitrogen calculations in the four zones while the city continues to develop its comprehensive wastewater management plan.

The plan will likely feature a variety of non-traditional septic alternatives instead of draining areas. Mastrangelo said that ultimately the plan will prioritize work on any nitrogen-stressed areas.

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“We have to define precisely the most degraded areas before we spend money,” she said.

The list would be in addition to areas already designated as “Total Maximum Daily Load”: Phinneys Harbour, Monument Beach and Squeteague/Megansett Harbors in Cataumet. These watersheds are the target of an upcoming review of septic systems by the Bourne Health Department, property-by-property, when the state passes new Title 5 health code regulations.

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Mastrangelo said the state Department of Environmental Protection review and review of the Massachusetts estuaries program will likely proceed as sewer commissioners pledge to “keep moving forward.” forward and work on estimated (nitrogen) reductions” in degraded watersheds. She said Buttermilk Bay to the north of the channel should also be given a “Total Maximum Daily Load” classification.

Future costs to homeowners could arise, city officials said

The Cape Coastal efforts on the nitrogen front stem in part from a Conservation Law Foundation Lawsuit against the state agency, forcing the agency to upgrade the certification of its septic system.

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This has some municipal officials on edge given the emerging need for large-scale inspections of septic systems, the resulting impact on the Department of Health, and the potential cost to property owners of upgrading or replacement of faulty systems; or add nitrogen reducing elements to their systems.

Mastrangelo says those costs will be discussed at a future commission meeting.

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Denise W. Whigham