In an effort to increase compliance with local regulations meant to aid water quality, the Town of Mashpee will send a letter detailing the town’s nitrogen control bylaw to the Cape Cod Landscape Association.
The letter written by the Mashpee Environmental Oversight Committee was approved unanimously by the Mashpee Board of Selectmen on Monday, November 16, with Selectman Thomas O’Hara suggesting that the letter be sent annually.
“The waters of Mashpee have been heavily impaired by nutrient loading from septic systems, stormwater run-off and fertilizer use,” the letter says. “As nitrogen is the cause of excess algal blooms in the saltwater estuaries such as Popponesset Bay and Waquoit Bay, phosphorus is the cause of excess algal blooms in freshwater systems such as Santuit Pond.”
Fueled by nitrogen, the algal blooms in the town’s bays have been linked to ecological damage, including the loss of eelgrass populations and muddier, murkier water. In freshwater, the algal blooms driven by phosphorus can consist of cyanobacteria, a potentially toxic blue-green algae. Health advisories warning against swimming or making contact with the water have become an annual occurrence at Santuit Pond.
The town’s nitrogen control bylaw prohibits fertilizer containing nitrogen from being applied between October 30 and April 14 and fertilizers containing phosphorus from being applied between December 1 and March 1.
The bylaw also prohibits fertilizers with nitrogen or phosphorus from being applied on impervious surfaces, within 24 hours of heavy rain or near wetlands. Violations of the bylaw can result in a $150 fine for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense and a $300 fine for each subsequent offense.
The Cape Cod Commission has estimated that reducing the amount of nitrogen that flows from lawn applications into Mashpee’s coastal estuaries and embayments by half could save the town’s taxpayers $40 million in sewer and wastewater treatment expenses, the bylaw says.