Cape Cod Sole Source Aquifer
See Federal Register Notice for further information about the Designated Sole Source Aquifer Area.
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) mandates a strong protective approach where a drinking water supply is highly dependent on a single aquifer. EPA has conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the design and operations of the proposed machine gun range at JBCC, and has issued a draft determination that the proposed project has the potential to contaminate the aquifer so as to create a significant public health hazard.
EPA is accepting public comment on its draft determination until 11:59 PM, June 26, 2023.
The public may provide oral comments at a May 24, 2023 Public Hearing (see details below).
The public may also provide oral comments by leaving a message on EPA's Cape Cod SSA voicemail box. Please call (617) 918-1800 to record your comments.
The public may email written comments to: R1SSAcomments@epa.gov
EPA will hold a short public informational meeting followed by a public hearing to accept oral comments.
Public Hearing, Wednesday - May 24, 2023
6:30 pm - Overview by EPA (recording available here: https://youtu.be/HkCaTzGgLbY)
7:00pm - Public Comment Accepted
Center for Active Living
70 Quaker Meetinghouse Road
*for accessibility or translation requests, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
You may join the public hearing virtually through Zoom at: https://usepa.zoomgov.com/j/1605125622?pwd=TXkyY29CNG9vR2tvUEkraWNONm82dz09.
EPA will not be accepting comments through Zoom. If you cannot join the public hearing, please provide oral comments by leaving a message on EPA's Cape Cod SSA voicemail box at 617-918-1800.
If you would like to send written comments, please email them to: R1SSAcomments@epa.gov
Cape Cod Sole Source Aquifer Information Sheet (pdf) (1 MB, April 2023)
The Administrative Record is available for review at: https://www3.epa.gov/region1/eco/drinkwater/capecod/adminrecord
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a Sole Source Aquifer?
- What is EPA's Authority to designate Aquifers as Sole Source?
- Is a SSA Review required?
- What are the SSA Project Review Steps?
- How is significant hazard to public health defined?
- 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)?
- How does EPA's Sole Source Aquifer MPMGR project review affect remediation efforts to clean up JBCC?
- What is the draft determination?
- What is the basis for EPA's determination?
- What are the next steps?
- What is the SSA project final determination process?
- How is the Safe Drinking Water Act protective of SSAs?
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
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."
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.
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.
5. How is significant hazard to public health defined?
Significant hazard to public health means any level of a contaminant which:
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;
may otherwise adversely affect the health of persons; or
- may require a public water system to install additional treatment to prevent such adverse effect.
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.
7. 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.
8. What is the draft determination?
Considering the protective orientation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Region has provisionally determined that the proposed project may contaminate the aquifer so as to create a significant public health hazard.
9. What is the basis for EPA's determination?
The Region arrived at this conclusion after evaluating factors prescribed by EPA guidance and Sole Source Aquifer regulations, including the following categories of information: extent of possibly public health hazard, sensitivity of the aquifer; existing environmental conditions (including cumulative impacts); scope of the proposed design, construction, and operations; official controls over possible releases to the aquifer, potential for environmental benefits, and projected long-term use and associated contaminant loading.
This provisional determination is based on information gathered and documented through an administrative record. Documents in the record are available for review at: WEB URL
10. What are the next steps?
Release of this draft SSA determination will be followed by a 60-day public comment period. During this time, written comments will be accepted. In addition, a public hearing will be held to accept oral comments. Information on registration procedures and mechanisms to submit formal comments is at: https://www3.epa.gov/region1/eco/drinkwater/capecod.html
11. What is the SSA project final determination process?
All comments timely received will be reviewed and considered by the Region, along with other available information. If, after evaluating this material, the Regional Administrator (RA) continues to believe that the proposed project may create a significant public health hazard, then he will forward the information to the EPA Administrator with a recommended conclusion. The Administrator will then make a final determination. Should this determination become final, no commitment of federal financial assistance (through a grant, contract, loan guarantee, or otherwise) may be allowed.
12. How is the Safe Drinking Water Act protective of SSAs?
The SDWA was originally passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation's public drinking water supplies and establishing Federal-State programs to protect underground sources of drinking water. The Act was viewed by the legislature as having an "essentially preventative purpose." In the case of a sole source aquifer, by definition, there are no reasonably alternative sources of drinking water, so preventing any potential contamination is of paramount concern. The protective approach called for by Congress when enacting the SDWA, and by EPA when enacting and implementing regulations and guidance, informs Region 1's review of the MPMGR proposal.