By Grey Lee
Why is water quality particularly important on Cape Cod? Groundwater is the only source of fresh water on the Cape and most areas of the Cape have no municipal sewage treatment or sewers. Most homes and many commercial properties treat their waste in on-site septic systems. If these systems are improperly designed, or poorly maintained or otherwise performing badly, then they risk pumping high levels of nitrates into the groundwater and even possibly other more dangerous bacterial contaminants.
The groundwater aquifer on Cape Cod is recharged solely by rainwater. It feeds the many freshwater ponds on the cape and ultimately flows to the sea. Nitrates can feed algae blooms in the water, which can consume the oxygen in the water and negatively impacting marine life.
What steps can individuals take to protect water quality on the Cape?
Homeowners are obligated to comply with system inspection requirements upon transfer of ownership of the property. In addition, homeowners should be careful to use and maintain the system correctly. Minimizing the volume of water put into the system, using environmentally friendly cleaning agents, and never disposing of oil-based products into the septic system are all basic. Designers should ensure that systems are properly designed for the specific soil and groundwater conditions on-site, without cutting any corners.
How does LEED interact with the need to protect Water Quality on the Cape?
Basic LEED principals that are overlapping between various credit categories and specific credits emphasize the need to reduce levels of potable water consumption as much as possible to prevent excessive surface run-off, encourage proper aquifer recharge, and to prevent contaminants from leaching into groundwater. Specifically, Credit WE 2 Innovative Wastewater Technologies Option 2 rewards treating 50% or more of wastewater on-site to tertiary standards, with onsite infiltration or re-use.
LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovations Rating System USGBC Member Approved November 2008 (Updated April 2013)