Cape Cod Comprehensive Regional Wastewater Management Strategy Development Project



EOEA Project Number 02-04/MWI

 June 30, 2003



 The goal of this grant was to assist Cape Cod towns that are engaged in wastewater management planning and provide a regional context for wastewater management solutions. The grant explored variety  of wastewater infrastructure choices and better management alternatives that will protect and restore sensitive water resources while maintaining economic sustainability.

Acomplishments included establishment of a new regional wastewater advisory committee, compilation of land use and wastewater flow volumes, and efforts towards a wastewater management district case study with various legal and institutional measures.

The Barnstable County Commissioners established the Wastewater Implementation Committee (WIC) as an advisory committee to Barnstable County.  The committee serves as a regional forum on wastewater issues for sharing information and coordination between towns, the county, and state programs.  The exchange of information at this  forum provides an opportunity to reach a regional consensus on funding, management, technology, policy and other issues related to wastewater and develop this consensus into a new regional wastewater management plan. The goal of the WIC is to address wastewater issues in a manner that incorporates good science, appropriate technologies and acceptable legal and financial means of implementation. 


septic tankThe creation of the Wastewater Implementation Committee (WIC) coincided with a growing level of interest and activities in wastewater issues across Cape Cod.  Among recent WIC activities are discussion of:  1) potential state legislation to generate funding for wastewater infrastructure on Cape Cod; 2) Cape Cod Commission planning and regulatory activities; 3) County Health on-site septic system technology review activities; 4) Business Round Table efforts to link Cape Cod’s sustainable economic future with environmental quality; 5) the Massachusetts Estuary Project; and 6) coordination with the County Assembly of Delegates regarding Wastewater   Management Reserve Fund expenditures.

In addition to creation of the WIC, Commission staff also prepared a regional assessment of wastewater planning and land use analysis.  This assessment included a number of steps.  First, a matrix of local wastewater planning and concerns was prepared using input from the WIC.  Second, several Geographic Information System land use maps were created detailing sensitive water resources, threats to water resources from development and wastewater facility and discharge area concerns.  Third, wastewater flow estimates were calculated for the Cape as a region, for each of the 15 towns, Zone IIs, watersheds to marine embayments and conceptual major and minor growth incentive areas.  As a result of these calculations, it is estimated that the Cape annually generates approximately 12 billion gallons of wastewater.  Within that total, approximately 30% is discharged into the Zone IIs of public water supply wells and over 80% is discharged into watersheds to marine embayments.  Finally, wastewater estimates were prepared for 11 potential growth areas identified by town planners.  Wastewater treatment estimates for these areas range between 100,000 gallons per day (gpd) and 1 million gpd with an average of 300,000 gpd.  Siting wastewater treatment facilities with even these moderate treatment capacities will prove difficult due to land use constraints, public opposition, and drinking water protection policies.

As a result of these grant activities, Barnstable County has provided an additional $55,000 to evaluate wastewater management district options for Cape Cod and to use four case studies for examples to show how such management tools can be applied.   The results of this study will be available in the Fall of 2003.




Although detailed watershed and site-specific assessments will be required, this project has helped establish a regional framework to undertake important discussions about wastewater planning and outreach and to collectively seek effective solutions for wastewater problems that are common among the towns of Cape Cod.



1) Cape Cod’s widespread use of individual septic system has reached a point where most Cape Cod towns are actively engaged in wastewater management and water resource protection discussions.

2) The Wastewater Implementation Committee (or WIC) is embarking on an ambitious agenda to facilitate and encourage towns to initiate wastewater management strategies that protect public health, restore coastal and fresh surface water quality, preserve community character and provide growth center infrastructure.

3) Cape Cod will require innovative management strategies and additional treatment capacity to accomplish any significant changes in wastewater infrastructure and water quality improvement. 

4)  The WIC is now engaged in: 1) Wastewater Management Districts study, 2) assisting the County in prioritizing expenditures for wastewater projects, 3) developing new initiatives, 4) discussion and preparation of a Regional Wastewater Management Planning document and 5) providing a regional forum for ongoing projects and programs.