Special Water Quality Alert Asks Residents To Eliminate Fertilizers
By RYAN SPENCER
Town Manager Rodney C. Collins sent a “special water quality alert” to property owners in Mashpee late last week outlining how eliminating the use of fertilizer can reduce nutrient pollution and blooms of harmful algae.
The Mashpee Board of Selectmen during its meeting on June 28 authorized the letter from the town manager after a presentation on blooms of potentially toxic cyanobacteria that closed Mashpee/Wakeby Pond and Santuit Pond to swimming earlier this summer.
“Mashpee’s freshwater ponds and saltwater bays, like all surface water resources on Cape Cod, are showing signs of poor water quality,” the letter said. “Fertilizer encourages plant growth. Regardless of whether you live close to the water or not, your use of fertilizer contributes to water quality decline.”
Poor water quality is driven by an excess of nutrients entering the water from septic tanks, stormwater runoff and fertilizer use on lawns and landscape areas, the letter said. The Town of Mashpee has begun long-term wastewater infrastructure changes to address water quality, but eliminating fertilizer use can aid water quality in the short term, the letter said.
When fertilizer is applied to lawns, nutrients from the fertilizers make their way through the groundwater to surface waters where “the nutrients encourage algae that occur naturally in the water to grow too much,” the letter said. “The result in our bays is excessive amounts of algae that form mats and smother other forms of beneficial aquatic life, causing the collapse of these ecosystems.”
On freshwater ponds, the excess nutrients can cause the excessive growth of cyanobacteria, a type of harmful algal bloom that can have adverse impacts on the health of humans and pets, the letter said.
“Eliminating fertilizer use throughout the town will reduce the nutrient pollution impacting our waters,” the letter said. “This action will buy us time to develop and implement more permanent solutions to the water quality problems we face. We know that this action, by itself, will not fully cure the problem.”
In the past year, harmful algal blooms have caused swimming closures at each of the four largest ponds in Mashpee, the letter said. Eliminating fertilizer use would be “a collective step in the right direction” that will benefit water quality in local ponds, bays and estuaries, the letter said.