Mashpee Selectmen Discuss Santuit Pond Concerns

MASHPEE – Mashpee selectmen recently held a discussion regarding water quality concerns at Santuit Pond, where high phosphorus levels have created a risk of contamination in recent years.

The board met with Health Agent Glen Harrington, who delivered a report detailing the status of septic systems within communities in the close vicinity of the pond.

According to Harrington, there were 121 septic systems within 300 feet of Santuit Pond, nine of which were cesspools.

There were 56 septic systems within 100 feet of Santuit Pond, seven of which were cesspools.

Out of the 121 total properties, 60 properties had their system pumped in the last 10 years. Of those 60 properties 43 systems were pumped in the last 5 years.

According to Harrington, more frequent pumping of the systems is needed.

“It should be done every two to three years, so this shows that systems are not being maintained the way they should,” said Harrington.

Several members of the board expressed concern at the findings and determined that a more concerted effort needed to be done between the various departments to be proactive in tackling the issue.

Harrington noted the failed septic tank systems, which constitute a risk to water quality of the pond due to sewage overflow, will be evaluated for funding as well as what technology should be applied to phosphorus removal.

Board of Health Chairman Brian Baumgaertel added that solving the problem of the septic tanks would not be enough to solve the larger issue.

“It’s only one piece of the puzzle,” said Baumgaertel. “Even if we shut off all the septic systems today, we would still have a problem, because we have a latent load of phosphorus in the ponds, and we also have poor land use practice around the ponds.”

Baumgaertel cited industrial fertilizers containing phosphorus, use of ponds as nitrogen buffers, and the removal of trees and vegetation which act as natural buffers to toxic runoff from the edges of local ponds as reasons for the high phosphorus levels.

He advocated for an approach of combining Innovative Alternative septic systems with new sewer installation and strengthening regulations concerning local ponds as the way forward in addressing phosphorus removal in Santuit Pond, as well as others in the region.

The board also discussed practical solutions to remove the outdated cesspools without incurring large costs to homeowners.

The board approved the dispensing of funds towards denitrification of sites in which phosphorus removal will occur.

They plan on reviewing the findings and meet again to further discuss a plan to move forward with restoring the pond.

By, Matthew Tomlinson, NewsCenter

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