Study Finds Six Embayments
Exceed Nitrogen Standards

by Tim Wood

CHATHAM -- A half dozen of the town's coastal embayments either exceed nitrogen loading standards currently or will do so in the near future, potentially endangering shellfish resources and the vacation economy the town depends on, according to a draft needs assessment released this week.

The needs assessment provides the framework and background for the ongoing comprehensive wastewater management planning study's second phase, which will examine alternatives to mitigating the problems identified in the recent report. Mandated by the state, the study will identify the town's wastewater needs for the next 20 years, and possibly allow for the expansion of the municipal wastewater treatment plant, now under a Department of Environmental Protection order limiting its volume.

"Now we know where the needs are," said William Redfield, director of the water and sewer department. "The town now has to come to grips with how much we want to protect these resources."

The major finding in the voluminous report -- it is nearly three inches thick -- is that half a dozen coastal embayments have either exceeded or will exceed their capacity to assimilate nitrogen, a so-called limiting nutrient which, in very low levels -- as little as .35 parts per million, much lower than the drinking water standard of 10 ppm -- can have a devastating impact on coastal water bodies. Excessive nitrogen fertilizes marine plants, causing algae blooms and fish kills, basically choking the oxygen out of the water. The chief source of nitrogen is on-site septic systems, which remove biological contaminants and viruses but do very little to eliminate nitrogen.

"We're all responsible for creating nitrogen and discharging it within the watersheds we live in and visit," said Nate Weeks of consultants Stearns and Wheler, LLC, during a presentation of the report's findings to members of the study's citizens advisory committee Monday afternoon.

Using the stringent water quality standard proposed by the Cape Cod Commission and used in the Pleasant Bay Resource Management Plan, the consultants determined that five embayments exceed the surface water standard under existing conditions: Muddy Creek, Ryder's Cove, Little Mill Pond, Taylor's Pond, and Sulphur Springs. Under future build-out condition, Mill Creek would also exceed the standard. All six water bodies are identified in the report as wastewater areas of concern.

Other potential areas of concern are also identified. "We don't want to call them problem areas now; that attaches too much of a stigma," Weeks said. "But we want to identify them because we do feel it is necessary to look at alternatives" to prevent those areas from degrading further.

They include high groundwater areas and land within the 100-year flood zone. Eight properties located at the west end of Eliphamet's Lane, near Mill Pond, meet both criteria. The lots are small, with minimal areas for a Title 5 septic system, and the health department has identified them as a priority for connecting to the municipal sewer system.

Tom's Neck, along Morris Island and Little Beach roads, is also an area of concern because it is within the 100-year flood zone. Many properties there have raised septic systems, which meet Title 5 but are "expensive to construct and are considered unsightly," the report states. Improved wastewater facilities for this area will be examined in the study's next phase.

Two industrial-zoned areas in town should be evaluated for sewering, the report states. Both Commerce Park and Enterprise Drive host car and boat repair businesses, which old "a real potential to introduce contaminants into the groundwater system." Both are also located within the water resource protection district, the recharge area for the town's drinking water wells, and within coastal embayment watersheds.

Members of the citizens advisory committee will meet with the consultants June 3 to provide feedback on the draft report. The public is also invited to comment, preferably in writing, said Weeks. A final report will then be submitted to the state, probably in mid July, and a joint state-Cape Cod Commission hearing will be held in mid August.

Copies of the comprehensive wastewater management planning study's needs assessment report are available for public inspection at the water and sewer department office on Old Harbor Road. An electronic copy is also available at the Eldredge Public Library, and is slated to be posted on the library's Web site.

Coast Guard Experience Will
Serve New Wharfinger Well

by Tim Wood

CHATHAM -- The town's new wharfinger is an experienced man on the water, and best of all, most of that experience was in Chatham.

Robert DiLorenzo
Robert DiLorenzo, Chatham's new wharfinger.

Robert M. DiLorenzo, who spent six years in the Coast Guard stationed in Chatham, is slated to begin work as wharfinger Monday.

"I feel very fortunate to be able to come back to Chatham after serving in the Coast Guard here," said DiLorenzo, who left the Coast Guard as a second class petty officer in 1995 and currently lives with his wife and two children in Harwich.

During his six years at Station Chatham, DiLorenzo worked as a boat operator, logging more than 4,000 hours underway on search and rescue missions, maritime law enforcement, aids to navigation and other duties. He participated in more than 200 search and rescue operations, learning first-hand the complex, ever-changing ins and outs of Chatham's waterways.

That knowledge, and the working relationships he developed with the harbormaster and wharfinger on such issues as dredging, mooring and navigation aids, "really had a lot to do with my success in the Coast Guard and, I believe, my success in getting this position," DiLorenzo said.

His experience in the Coast Guard made DiLorenzo a "near-perfect fit" for the wharfinger's job, said director of coastal resources Ted Keon.

"He's very familiar with the local area and he's familiar with the pier, having worked there," Keon said. "He looks to fit the bill very well."

There were 24 applicants for the position, five of whom were interviewed. "We all agreed any one of those five could have done the job," Keon said. DiLorenzo's edge came in positive feedback from fishermen and a recommendation from Senior Chief Jack Downey, former commander of the Chatham Coast Guard Station. "Basically they all said Bob is a guy who will give you over and beyond what you're looking for." Given the fractured nature of the coastal resources department, with offices on two waterfronts, the wharfinger has to be a self-started, Keon said.