Nitrogen Level in Cape Cod Sparks Debate (USA)

Increasing nitrogen levels are affecting the vegetation and marine life on the west coast of Cape Cod generating an ecological and infrastructure issue. The problem threatens to affect the industry, the tourism and the beaches.

Estuaries, bays and other bodies of water, from Bourne to Orleans, have been constricted by algae and seaweed. The presence of nitrogen, much of it coming from the septic system, gives rise to a vast tracts of algae that deplete the oxygen and kill everything in local waters.

A number of plans made to clean up the wastewater have not brought any success, however they have been stifled by disputes over who should pay for such an expensive project.

Environmental activists blame the federal government for not taking any action. Some residents on the other hand do not believe that nitrogen is the main source of pollution. According to them there are other sources such as diesel fuel from all boats, lead paint on many boats, dredging, and runoff from storm drains.

Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Collaborative, stressed that there are some potentiol solutions such as building sewer systems and more waste-water treatment facilities in urban areas; widening inlets along the coast to increase tidal flushing; dredging existing wetlands to allow a greater flow of water; restoring abandoned bogs to absorb nitrogen; and adding new technology to improve existing septic tanks.


Dredging Today Staff, November 28, 2011;

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