Proposed Regulations to Tackle Nitrogen Pollution Could Impact Septic Systems on The Cape and Islands


“Nitrogen represents the largest pollution problem in the nation’s coastal waters, and one of the greatest threats to the ecological functioning of these ecosystems,” according to the journal Limnology and Oceanography. Those of us who live near nitrogen-sensitive coastal ecosystems are well aware of nitrogen’s impact. How to mitigate this is less clear. But new regulations proposed for Cape Cod, where ponds are thick with nitrogen-fed algae, aim to tackle nitrogen pollution at one of its clear sources: septic systems. These regulations may also be in the works for Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and the south coast of Massachusetts. 

“This is the biggest regulatory change I’ve seen in my 33-year career,” Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells told WBUR. “This is enormous.”

The proposal consists of two amendments to the existing Title 5 septic system regulations: The establishment of Nitrogen Sensitive Areas, and a requirement for property owners within these areas to replace or upgrade their septic systems within five years. If communities within these nitrogen-sensitive water districts present a plan to address nitrogen pollution, then individuals might be exempt from adding nitrogen filters to their systems.

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  1. When and if this is enacted, it will present an unwelcome and , for many Vineyarders, financially draining or impossible obstacle.
    I would hope that this is taken seriously into consideration . Vineyarders want a healthy ecosystem, but the individual cost demand my be the final straw. We should not force economic hardship to accomplish that.


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