Patrick Administration Approves Groundwater Restoration Projects for Upper Cape Cod
Funded through a $1.175 million settlement, land purchases in Sandwich and Mashpee will help compensate for groundwater pollution by military contractor
As the Commonwealth's Trustee in a Natural Resource Damages (NRD) case involving Textron Systems Corp., and in coordination with Federal Trustees, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles solicited proposals earlier this year for projects to restore, replace, or acquire natural resources at MMR, a 20,000-acre area that includes the Massachusetts Air and Army National Guard and Coast Guard command centers. From a pool of restoration project applicants, EEA selected for funding a $259,200 proposal to purchase 13.7 acres in the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge and a $61,200 proposal to purchase the 5.3-acre Thicket Run Property in Sandwich.
The funds are part of a $1.175 million NRD settlement from an Army-initiated lawsuit and the Commonwealth's claim that Textron's development and explosive testing of tactical weapons systems at MMR contaminated the groundwater with the hazardous material and weapons propellant perchlorate, an inorganic chemical that is highly mobile in water and can persist for years under typical conditions. The land purchases announced today are meant to help compensate the public for natural resources and services lost due to the release of perchlorate and other hazardous substances.
"Safe drinking water is a basic right of all citizens and it is a fundamental responsibility of the Commonwealth to ensure this right," Secretary Bowles said. "I am pleased to announce the selection of projects designed to restore and protect the precious groundwater resources of Upper Cape Cod, safeguarding public health and contributing to the region's economic and environmental well-being."
In addition to the two land acquisitions, Secretary Bowles today recommended two water resource management plans, one of which will be co-funded by monies provided by the Air Force and Army Natural Resource Trustees. Under terms of the NRD settlement, EEA will take public comment later this fall before finalizing funding for these two projects as part of an overall groundwater restoration plan. Recommended for funding - pending public comment - were the town of Sandwich's $400,000 project to develop a comprehensive water resource management plan, and the Upper Cape Regional Water Supply Cooperative's proposed $371,800 Sagamore Lens Aquifer-Sustainable Management of Water Resources Plan (of which $175,000 will be funded by the Department of Defense).
Over the next several weeks, EEA will execute contracts for the two land acquisitions. The Commonwealth will provide $259,200 for the Orenda Wildlife Land Trust, Inc.'s purchase of 13.7 acres of Mashpee pine barrens, a globally rare habitat. Surrounded by Orenda's 130-acre Makepeace/Mercy Lowe Sanctuary and town conservation lands and connecting to hundreds of acres of public open space, the new acquisition will encompass lands that protect drinking water supply wells, while providing permanent conservation of critical wildlife habitat.
The state will also purchase on behalf of the Sandwich Water District a $61,200 parcel known as the Thicket Run Property in Sandwich. Purchase of the property as conservation land will protect groundwater quality and public drinking water supplies, while creating and preserving open space and conservation land.
From 1968 to 1999, Textron or its predecessors, under contracts with the US Department of Defense, conducted munitions testing in the area of J-3 Range at MMR. J-3 Range lies above the Cape Cod Sole Source Aquifer, which supplies drinking water for approximately 147,772 permanent and 424,445 peak seasonal residents of Cape Cod.
A settlement, entered into US District Court in 2008 resolved NRD claims against Textron, and is the largest state-only recovery for groundwater NRD obtained by the Commonwealth. Filed jointly by the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office and the US Department of Justice, the court-entered consent decree also resolved related federal NRD claims. NRD is a category of legal damages defined by various state and federal statutes as compensation for injury to, destruction of, or loss of natural resources, including the reasonable costs of a damage assessment. This settlement covered Textron's share of the cost of restoring injured resources to their baseline condition, compensation for the interim loss of damaged resources, and the reasonable cost of conducting the damage assessment.
Restoration is made possible through cooperative efforts of Dale Young, Director, and Karen Pelto, Case Manager, in the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program of EEA, working with the public and other government agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection and Federal Trustees (US Army, US Air Force, US Department of Veterans Affairs, and US Department of Interior/US Fish & Wildlife Service).