Region 1: EPA New England

Cape Cod Sole Source Aquifer

Map

See Federal Register Notice for further information about the Designated Sole Source Aquifer Area.

Update

EPA Region 1 is conducting a Sole Source Aquifer (SSA) review of the Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range (MPMGR) project proposed by the Massachusetts Army National Guard (MAARNG), to be constructed on Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC).  

Following the EPA review, EPA will solicit public input on its proposed determination as to whether the project may contaminate the aquifer so as to create a significant hazard to public health.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a Sole Source Aquifer?
  2. What is EPA's Authority to designate Aquifers as Sole Source?
  3. Is a SSA Review required?
  4. What are the SSA Project Review Steps?
  5. How is significant hazard to public health defined?
  6. How does the EPA Sole Source Aquifer Program relate to the Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range (MPMGR) project proposed to be constructed at Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC)?
  7. What is the timing of Region 1's Sole Source Aquifer Review of the Proposed Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range Project?
  8. What is the public involvement process for EPA’s Sole Source Aquifer review of the proposed MPMGR?
  9. How does EPA's Sole Source Aquifer MPMGR project review affect remediation efforts to clean up JBCC?

1. What is a Sole Source Aquifer?

EPA defines a sole source aquifer (SSA) as one where:

  • The aquifer supplies at least 50% of the drinking water in its service area; and

  • There are no reasonably available alternative drinking water sources should the aquifer become contaminated.

For more detailed information: https://www.epa.gov/dwssa

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2. What is EPA's Authority to designate Aquifers as Sole Source?

The SSA program is authorized by Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-523, 42 U.S.C. 300f et. seq), which states:

"If the Administrator determines, on his own initiative or upon petition, that an area has an aquifer which is the sole or principal drinking water source for the area and which, if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health, he shall publish notice of that determination in the Federal Register.

After the publication of any such notice, no commitment for federal financial assistance (through a grant, contract, loan guarantee, or otherwise) may be entered into for any project which the Administrator determines may contaminate such aquifer through a recharge zone to create a significant hazard to public health."

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3. Is a SSA Review required?

No, proposed projects that may impact a SSA may be subject to a sole source aquifer review, at EPA's discretion, as outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

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4. What are the SSA Project Review Steps?

Once a project is identified, the financing agency, or its designee, sends project information to the appropriate EPA regional office for review and evaluation. If the evaluation indicates that the project does not have the potential to contaminate the SSA so as to create a significant public health hazard, EPA notifies the financing agency that the project may continue as planned. As part of its approval, EPA may suggest additional measures to be taken by the financing agency, or its designee, to further ensure protectiveness.

If there is insufficient information to evaluate the project, EPA will request further information.

If the project has the potential to contaminate the aquifer, EPA will begin negotiations to modify the project. If negotiations are not successful, federal funding can be denied.

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5. How is significant hazard to public health defined?

Significant hazard to public health means any level of a contaminant which:

  1. causes or may cause the aquifer to exceed any maximum contaminant level provided in any national primary drinking water standard at any point where the water may be used for drinking water purposes;

  2. may otherwise adversely affect the health of persons;    or

  3. may require a public water system to install additional treatment to prevent such adverse effect.

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6. How does the EPA Sole Source Aquifer Program relate to the Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range (MPMGR) project proposed to be constructed at Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC)?

As part of EPA's Sole Source Aquifer program, in 1982, the Cape Cod aquifer was designated as the sole or principal source of drinking water for Cape Cod. As a result, projects proposed to be constructed on Cape Cod receiving federal financial assistance may be subject to a sole source aquifer review, at EPA's discretion, as outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In response to significant public concerns, including inquiries from the Massachusetts congressional delegation and a written request from a Cape Cod resident, in summer 2021, EPA Region 1 evaluated the applicability of a Sole Source Aquifer review for the proposed Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range project at Joint Base Cape Cod. Given the scope of this project, public interest, and direct inquiries to EPA regarding the applicability of the review, EPA elected to conduct this review.

In August 2021, EPA notified the Massachusetts Army National Guard and the U.S. Department of Defense that EPA would be conducting an SSA review of the MPMGR project. Since then, EPA has been working with both organizations to gather data and information on the project.

The purpose of EPA's SSA review is to evaluate whether the proposed MPMGR project has the potential to contaminate the aquifer so as to create a significant hazard to public health. If EPA determines that the project has the potential to contaminate the aquifer so as to present a significant hazard to public health, EPA will begin negotiations to modify the project. If negotiations are not successful, federal funds can be denied. If it is determined that the project does not have the potential to contaminate the aquifer so as to create a significant hazard to public health, EPA may still recommend measures for MAARNG to take to provide additional protections for the aquifer.

This review will focus only on the project's potential impacts to the aquifer and is not a comprehensive review of all potential environmental or public health impacts. It will not include the assessment of other potential environmental impacts such as those provided to other agencies through their public involvement mechanisms.

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7. What is the timing of Region 1's Sole Source Aquifer Review of the Proposed Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range Project?

In August 2021, EPA began evaluating technical information to determine if the project has the potential to contaminate the aquifer so as to cause significant harm to public health. EPA will utilize the wealth of information available through the many cleanup investigations and efforts conducted b and other agencies and commissions, and responses from MAARNG to EPA's technical questions relating to the SSA project review. EPA's expected timeframe for completion of the SSA review and draft determination is Spring 2022, which could be extended. This depends upon the availability of the information on the project and potentially impacted areas, including ground water impact assessments.

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8. What is the public involvement process for EPA's Sole Source Aquifer review of the proposed MPMGR?

In 2022, EPA expects to release to the public a draft SSA determination as to whether the proposed MPMGR project may cause contamination of the aquifer so as to present a significant hazard to public health.  At that same time, EPA will release an administrative record supporting the draft determination.

The release of the draft SSA determination will be followed by a 30-day public comment period. During that time, written comments will be accepted through a non-rulemaking docket. In addition, EPA will hold a public hearing to accept verbal comments.  Information on registration procedures will be released prior to the public hearing.  After the close of the public comment period, all comments received will be reviewed and considered prior to issuing the final SSA project determination.     

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9. How does EPA's Sole Source Aquifer MPMGR project review affect remediation efforts to clean up JBCC?

Protecting Cape Cod's source of drinking water continues to be a high priority for EPA. The SSA MPMGR project review will not affect on-going remediation efforts.

EPA, in conjunction with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Massachusetts Environmental Management Commission (EMC), continues work at JBCC under Superfund and existing Safe Drinking Water Act Orders to address existing contamination from past training and military activities at JBCC.

  • Under both of these programs, EPA Region 1 has overseen cleanup of over 45 separate areas of contamination to date. The contamination was caused by training and military activities at the base, including at the "known distance" (KD) Range, the area proposed for the MPMGR location.

  • While the Sole Source Aquifer project review is an independent review, data from Superfund and Safe Drinking Water Act cleanup work will be considered, by EPA, as part of the review.

  • EPA's coordination with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts includes the EMC serving as the oversight body for operations of active small arms ranges and approving use of additional munitions and other training devices.

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