Proposed Brewster Board of Health Regulation

The Brewster Board of Health is meeting on September 21, 2016 to obtain public comments and input on a proposed regulation to improve the management of septic systems within close proximity to fresh water ponds. The proposed regulation is provided here. The map showing the properties under the jurisdiction of the regulation if adopted is provided here.

Background for Phase III

Brewster’s water resources are diverse. The condition and sustainability of Brewster’s primary water supply – a sole source aquifer – can be impacted by human activities. Brewster is also home to approximately 80 fresh water ponds. Many are healthy but some are impaired by population growth and human activities over the last 70-80 years. Brewster’s population increased from 827 people in 1940 to 9,820 people in 2010. The effects of this growth and the associated development can impact water resources in a variety of ways including increased demand for water and wastewater services, additional impervious surfaces, and increased nutrient loading into water bodies.

Seventeen ponds, shown in the figure below, are considered impaired, requiring actions by the Town and by shoreline residents to restore them. Current threats to the ponds are associated with phosphorus, the nutrient that feeds excess algae and plant growth in fresh water ponds. Sources include septic systems near pond shorelines, lawn fertilizers applied adjacent to the ponds (especially if applied right before it rains), and runoff from roads, driveways and parking lots. Historic agricultural activities may have contributed to degraded water quality as well.

Brewster’s estuaries have been studied as part of the Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) and found to be suffering from excess nitrogen. In particular, the MEP Pleasant Bay study revealed severe impacts from excess nitrogen inputs from septic systems, lawns and stormwater. Brewster is one of four towns that contributes nitrogen to the Bay, and therefore is required under federal and state law to develop a plan to reduce future nitrogen contributions. The Comprehensive Water Planning Committee is investigating a series of alternative solutions to reduce nitrogen loading and will be making a recommendation to the Town on the best approach to restore the Bay.

Phase III will address the components of water resources planning, including an evaluation of wastewater and nitrogen management alternatives and the development and finalization of updated by-laws and regulations to implement the stormwater management recommendations developed during Phase II. The overall goal is to plan for sustainable water resources both now and in the future.

As the Town continues to grow, both in terms of population and development, these impacts could become worse unless there is comprehensive water resources management planning. The build-out condition (see Prior Projects) represents a worst-case development scenario and will be used to evaluate possible future impacts on all water resources. Recommendations for current and future water quality conditions will be presented based on these analyses.

To date, the Town and its citizens have taken a proactive role in the protection of Brewster's water resources. The citizen volunteer group, Pond and Lake Stewards (PALS), is very active in monitoring the Town’s ponds, and has been since 2000. Their data formed a strong basis for the Town-sanctioned Brewster Ponds Report which provides detailed information and recommendations for many ponds in the Town. Brewster has also passed bylaws that help limit the impact of development. These include bylaws for stormwater, water quality, subdivisions, sand and gravel mining, and gravel roads.

The Town initiated the Integrated Water Resource Management Plan (IWRMP) in 2009 and formed a Comprehensive Water Planning Committee (CWPC). The CWPC was appointed by the Selectmen and charged with coordinating the efforts of the Town staff and the Town’s consultants. Phase I of the project was completed in 2011 and then the Town initiated a number of intermediate "bridge" projects to expand the Town’s data and understanding of water quality (see Prior Projects). Phase II of the IWRMP commenced in 2012, and was completed in January 2013.

Phase II Details and Nitrogen Load from Brewster to Pleasant Bay

Additional details on Phase II can be found in the Phase II final report. In addition, an analysis of nitrogen loads to Pleasant Bay is provided, based on the MEP Pleasant Bay model.