September 22, 2022
BOSTON (Sept. 22, 2022) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Southeast New England Program (SNEP) has awarded $1,150,000 of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to Barnstable County to reduce nitrogen entering Cape Cod and Buzzards Bay waterways by improving septic system management practices through the establishment of local septic management and maintenance organizations, known as Responsible Management Entities (RMEs), as well as through the installation of nitrogen reducing Innovative/Alternative (I/A) septic systems.
“It is critical that we reduce the nutrient loads that lead to harmful algal blooms on Cape Cod and protect the health of the iconic watershed and its beaches,” said EPA Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “Thanks to President Biden’s historic investment through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are able to make a significant investment in septic system management practices for the Cape that will help reduce the nutrients leaching into the waterways.”
“Wastewater management is a priority environmental issue here on Cape Cod, both in terms of improving water quality in our ponds and coastal embayments, but also in protecting the sole source aquifer which provides our region’s drinking water,” according to Barnstable County Senior Program Specialist Brian Baumgaertel. “While sewering is an ideal long-term solution to nutrient pollution from onsite septic, it is projected to take many years, complex planning and significant funding to complete. In the meantime, improvements and upgrades to current onsite septic systems with newly available nutrient reducing technologies will provide an adequate stop gap.”
Today’s announcement is part of a $15 million investment in the Southern New England Estuaries Geographic over the next five years. Cape Cod and Buzzards Bay have been vulnerable to harmful algal blooms and beach closures due to excess nutrients entering the water. Septic systems are an important, but often overlooked, part of our national wastewater infrastructure and are also one of the largest sources of controllable nitrogen in the SNEP region. EPA’s SNEP is focused on watershed health between Cape Cod Bay and Long Island Sound and has worked closely with entities on Cape Cod to develop nitrogen reduction solutions including this latest investment in Responsible Management Entities. Responsible Management Entities (RME) are a specific kind of local management entity, like a wastewater utility, but one focused on decentralized wastewater systems like septic systems. Thanks to the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, RME’s in Barnstable County will improve overall management and maintenance of septic systems and allow for increased installation of nitrogen reducing Innovative-Alternative (I/A) Systems, all of which should lead to decreased nutrient loads.
Barnstable County’s Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center (MASSTC) will lead the project. They will establish RMEs in up to four communities to oversee and facilitate the proper design, installation, operation, maintenance, and performance of I/A systems to reduce nitrogen in Cape Cod embayments and Buzzards Bay. The project will eventually be expanded to offer services to all communities in Barnstable County and to provide assistance to all communities connected to shared watersheds, such as Buzzards Bay. In addition to EPA’s $1,150,000 award, The Nature Conservancy is contributing $100,000, and Barnstable County is providing an additional $469,676 to the project for a total of $1,719,676 in funding.
Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA is making the single largest investment in water that the federal government has ever made by investing more than $50 billion to improve our nation’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. The implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law calls for strong partnership, and EPA is working closely with state and local partners to ensure that communities see the full benefits of this investment.
“The Baker-Polito Administration applauds the federal investments being made in Massachusetts, particularly on Cape Cod, to protect the health of our residents and to maintain its unique environment for years to come,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “MassDEP and our partners at the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust recognize the significance of the infusion of supplemental funding to the State Revolving Fund (SRF) program. The supplemental funding increases will help ensure Disadvantaged Communities can afford to implement critical water infrastructure projects.”
“This $1.15 million grant from SNEP is fantastic news for Cape Cod, and I’m glad to see funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law benefitting our local communities in Massachusetts,” said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. “This investment will go towards reducing nitrogen levels in Cape Cod and Buzzards Bay waterways and updating maintenance of septic systems to protect our beautiful shorelines from harmful algal blooms.”
“Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Barnstable County officials have secured key funding to improve the region’s wastewater management systems,” said U.S. Senator Ed Markey. “More advanced management systems will help ensure that Cape Cod and Buzzards Bay waterways are better protected for marine species and all those who live in and enjoy the Cape’s iconic waters and beaches.”
Some specific project tasks to be undertaken will include:
- Development of RME frameworks for four communities
- Development of financial resources to fund RMEs and I/A system installations
- Development of a technical advisory committee
- Development of a central information hub on I/A systems for decision makers, homeowners, and developers
- Installation of numerous I/A systems
- Monitoring of existing I/As as well as those to be installed
Barnstable County will share the results of this effort with MassDEP, EPA and other communities that may have an interest in a similar solution to their decentralized wastewater management.
For more information on EPA’s Southern New England Program visit: https://www.epa.gov/snep
For more information on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments in water infrastructure visit: www.epa.gov/infrastructure