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Student Guide | Cape Cod | Everglades | Los Angeles | Download PDF

Cape Cod:



Focus Question

The Interested Parties

Cape Cod's Unique, "Absorbent" Geology

Where Do Cape Codders Get Their Water?

Porosity, Permeability, and Ground Water

The Massachusetts Military Reservation - An Environmental Dilemma

The Facts About Septic Tanks, and Other Threats to the Cape's Ground -Water Quality

Ground-Water Cleanup - No Easy Task

The USGS's Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, or "How We Learned About the Ashumet Valley Sewage Plume"

The Harwich Solar Aquatic Septage Treatment Plant - the Neighbors May Have One Answer


The Interested Parties:

The Military
Military officials, including the Air Force, Army, and National Guard, are responsible for the cleanup of ground water contaminated by activities at the base and for prevention of additional ground-water pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR) as a Superfund site in 1989. When a military site is classified as a Superfund site, the Department of Defense MUST carry out the cleanup under the oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, ground-water cleanup is expensive and difficult. The Department of Defense must remedy the problem, but responsibility for the cleanup is complicated because the base has changed hands and functions several times in the last generation.

Regulatory Agencies
Regulatory officials from the U.S. Environmental Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection who oversee the cleanup want to restore and protect water quality in the aquifer. As "public servants," they must balance the difficult task of cleanup and associated costs with the public demand for action. They are working closely with the Department of Defense to find a solution that is quick, effective, and affordable.

Municipal Water Managers
Officials responsible for providing town residents with a clean, safe supply of water want to do all they can to protect the Cape Cod aquifer. And if a town's water supply becomes contaminated by ground-water plumes, water supply officials want action to restore the lost supply. In fact, when underground contamination closed supply wells in Mashpee and Falmouth, the military base paid most of the costs of building new public water systems.

Cancer Victims' Rights Group
As a member of the Cape Cod chapter of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, you are concerned about how contaminated ground water might be affecting cancer rates on the Upper Cape. Between 1982 and 1988 the incidence of cancer was 22 percent greater in the five towns that make up the Upper Cape than in the rest of the state. You want to know - is polluted ground water causing cancer?

Environmentalists celebrate Cape Cod's unique geology, protected seashores, native plants, and crystal ponds. Generations of naturalists, including Henry David Thoreau, have celebrated Cape Cod's beauty. People have protected the Cape's dunes, grasses, and coastline for many years. Now they need to turn their attention to protecting an important unseen player in the environmental balance - the Cape Cod aquifer.

Residents on the Upper Cape are afraid. They worry that the water they drink and bathe in is unsafe. They worry about getting cancer. They worry that the value of their property will plummet if the ground-water problems are not fixed. If the contaminated ground- water plumes aren't stopped, will the tourists stop coming? How would Cape Cod survive without tourist dollars?

Student Guide | Cape Cod | Everglades | Los Angeles | Download PDF

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