Thursday, March 14, 2013

Massachusetts Town Revisiting Lake Village Contamination


By: Nathan Lamb

Lost Lake is the centerpiece of a tight-knit community in Groton, Massachusetts, but that arrangement is thought to have created long-term water quality issues for that nature resource.

At issue are high levels of phosphorus and fecal coliform bacteria in the lake that have raised concerns about protecting water quality in the neighborhood, which relies on private wells.

The problem was outlined in a 2012 environmental notification form filed with the state by a Selectmen-appointed advisory committee. Compiled by environmental consultants, the report noted that wastewater disposal has been an issue at the neighborhood for at least 40 years due to “antiquated on-site wastewater disposal systems” with “high failure rates”.

A sewer system would alleviate the problem, but that $12.9 million proposal was rejected by town meeting voters in January, according to this story from the Lowell Sun newspaper. 

Aside from cost, the primary objection at the town meeting was a perceived lack of information about where the contamination was coming from. The Board of Selectmen responded to the vote by appointing a new group to revisit the issue and provide more information for residents.

Meeting again on March 6, the reconfigured group’s discussion focused on gathering baseline data—compiling an inventory of neighborhood wells and speaking with experts involved with the last process. The group also discussed options for determining the contamination’s source; speakers at the town meeting listed nearby streams as possible culprits.

Lost Lake was originally a seasonal cottage community that has since evolved into a full-time residential community. In addition to poor soils, the area is dominated by small lots—with more than half the lots one-quarter of an acre or smaller.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants, but in high levels it can spur a population explosion of weeks and threaten natural resources. Fecal bacteria is generally associated with human or animal feces, and can carry a variety of disease-causing bacteria and viruses.

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