Letter from Chip Northrup
Cape Cod Water: a Cautionary Tale
Most septic systems are designed to remove solids and bacteria, not nitrogen and phosphorus. The harmful algae blooms, or HABs, in Otsego Lake are driven by two key nutrients: nitrogen and phosphorus. Septic systems in the Otsego Lake watershed—including ones that are adjacent to the lake—may be leaking nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil, which may subsequently enter the lake, feeding a toxic bloom. Old-fashioned septic tanks are the culprits in other areas where HABs are becoming chronic.
Most of the housing on Cape Cod is on septic tanks—which can introduce nitrogen into the ponds and creeks, triggering HABs that have closed ponds for swimming and killed wildlife. Let that be a warning to Otsego: You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod. Until you gag on the water.
Septic tanks leak nitrogen and phosphorus into the ponds on Cape Cod