Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

Massachusetts military reservation trustee council seeks public comment on upper cape cod groundwater restoration plan

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and the U.S. Air Force, as co-lead Trustees, today released for public comment a Draft Restoration Plan that would fund two water resource management plans designed to help compensate for groundwater pollution by Textron Systems Corporation, a U.S. Department of Defense contractor at the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR) in Upper Cape Cod.

Acting as the Commonwealth's Trustee in a Natural Resource Damages (NRD) case involving Textron, and in coordination with the federal Trustees from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and U.S. Department of Interior, EEA Secretary Ian Bowles solicited proposals last 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, the Trustees recommend funding - pending public comment - 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 Textron NRD settlement funds awarded to the Department of Defense). With an emphasis on regional benefits, these plans are expected to help protect potential drinking water supplies through better planning and management.

A 30-day public comment period on the Draft Restoration Plan, required under terms of the state and federal Trustees' settlement with Textron, begins today. The Trustees will hold a public meeting on the Draft Restoration Plan at 7 p.m. on April 6 at the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School (Multi-purpose Room), 220 Sandwich Road, Bourne.

'The proposed projects we are releasing for public comment today are part of a comprehensive plan to restore and protect the Upper Cape’s precious water resources,' Secretary Bowles said.  'I encourage residents of the region to learn more about these proposals as we work with federal partners to compensate for past environmental damage and to safeguard drinking water and other natural resources into the future.'

In addition to the proposed water management plans requiring public comment, EEA has already executed contracts for two land acquisition proposals, providing $259,200 in settlement funds for the Orenda Wildlife Land Trust Inc.'s purchase of 13.7 acres of Mashpee pine barrens - a globally-rare habitat in the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge, and $61,200 for the Sandwich Water District to purchase a 5.3-acre parcel known as the Thicket Run Property in Sandwich.

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 Mashpee parcel encompasses lands that protect drinking water supply wells and critical wildlife habitat. Purchase of the Thicket Run Property protects groundwater quality and public drinking water supplies, while creating and preserving open space and conservation land.

Funds for the land purchases and water management projects derive from a $1.3 million NRD settlement of a U.S. 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 hazardous substances that can persist for years under typical conditions. The projects are meant to help compensate the public for natural resources and services lost due to the release of hazardous substances.

From 1968 to 1999, Textron or its predecessors, under contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense, conducted munitions testing in the area of the J-3 Range at MMR. The 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 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts in 2008 resolved NRD claims against Textron. 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.

Click here for a copy of the Draft Restoration Plan which will also be available to view at the Sandwich, Bourne, Falmouth, Woods Hole and Mashpee public libraries.

This restoration is made possible by the cooperative efforts of EEA's NRD Assessment and Restoration Program in working with the federal Trustees and the public.

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