Making Democracy Work

Natural Resources

The Natural Resources Committee of the LWV of Falmouth studies several different issues related to the important and fragile environment on Cape Cod.

Natural Resources Committee

Annual Report, May 2017
Pamela Polloni, Chair

Our committee chair has recently joined the Massachusetts LWV (LWVMA) Environmental Action and Advocacy (EEA) Steering Committee. LWVMA put out a call to the local leagues and assembled a group under two league legislative activists, Karen Price and Launa Zimmaro. Falmouth's Natural Resources Committee had worked with Launa to update the bottle bill when the League and other groups working together had generated a lot of support from legislators and had gathered enough signatures to get an update on the ballot. (With stiff opposition from the bottling industry we weren't successful getting a bill passed either way.) Pam agreed to join the new EEA Steering Committee.

The EEA Steering Committee has participated in one LWV webinar on Carbon Pricing https://priceoncarbon.org/general/oreskes-nails-it/ and will be holding monthly teleconferences. The LWVMA supported the 30th Local Environmental Action Conference at Northeastern University on March 5 and Kathy Mortenson and Pam attended from LWVF. The morning keynote speaker was Kandi Mossett, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation of North Dakota. Kandi presented a powerful message revealing the devastating recent history of her peoples, three tribes whose home, even under treaty, once included a much, much larger area of rich agricultural land along the Missouri River. This land is now subject to subdivision by oil fields, roads, and hydraulic fracturing for gas extraction and the tribes have lost jurisdiction. While water is designated "natural resource," Kandi declared, "Water is life!" Even here in Massachusetts, where water is plentiful, we must all recognize that water is critical to our lives and to the living environment of our surroundings. Falmouth League continues to work toward water resource protection.

The EEA Steering Committee applied for and has received a grant to support a series of five regional forums on Climate and Energy Solutions. Falmouth's will be the fifth, November 4 on the topic of Local Environmental Action + Coastal Issues, and five members have offered to help with the planning.

Recognizing the impacts of climate change and both excess nutrients and rising sea level on our coastal town's groundwater and embayments, Falmouth's many local issues of natural resources protection are our members' major interest. We continue to participate with others in finding solutions for solid waste and wastewater management, water quality, open space protection, and energy conservation.

The Natural Resources Chair position is now vacant.

Wastewater Challenges

Falmouth and Cape Cod is facing one of its most important challenges - We must sewer substantial parts of the town to save our bays and estuaries. This will require a substantial investment of money and effort.

  • Excess nitrogen from septic systems, lawn fertilizers, atmospheric deposition (rain, snow and fog) and storm water run off are overwhelming our natural systems. Our backyard septic systems contribute the most to this load of nitrogen entering our fragile bays and estuaries. The nitrogen levels in this waste stream are higher than what the natural systems can absorb. Just like the nitrogen in our garden fertilizers, this nitrogen causes aquatic plants to grow. But in this case it causes an explosion of growth, leading to algal blooms that can spread over a water body's surface blocking out sunlight, smothering eel grass beds and destroying shellfish beds. This can lead to fish kills and noxious odors.

  • If you flush a toilet, you are contributing to the problem. Nitrogen in our wastes leaches from our septic systems and then into the groundwater. Over time this groundwater migrates to our coasts and estuaries. We are already seeing stressed ecosystems. In the long run this could impact our Town's economy as properties values along the waterfront could fall and Falmouth could be a less desirable tourist destination.

  • Title 5 septic systems remove very little nitrogen. Only 3% of Falmouth is connected to the sewage treatment plant with the remainder of the town using septic systems or cesspools. To combat the nitrogen pollution to Falmouth estuaries, the Town must sewer substantial parts of the Town.

  • Falmouth has developed a Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan for the southeast facing estuaries.

Useful Links Regarding Wastewater Issues

The following are useful links regarding Wastewater Issues.