Friends of Farm Pond, Oak Bluffs MA

Nitrogen and Septic Information

Septic systems effectively eliminate almost all bacteria and many viruses. The effluent leaving the tank contains tens of thousands of fecal bacteria, but after percolating through four feet of soil, the bacterial count is reduced to one per gram of soil. But nutrients like nitrogen are not removed during their transit through the soil. Because nitrate and clay both have negative electrical charges they repel each other. The soil does not “trap” the nitrate to make it available for root systems of plants. So it proceeds into the groundwater and eventually into the Island’s ponds. The septic tank of a family of three releases enough nitrogen to contaminate nearly four million gallons of marine salt water.

Excess nitrogen entering a coastal pond in the form of nitrate leads to:

  • Phytoplankton blooms, causing cloudy or greenish coloring.
  • Excess growth of macroalgae.
  • Decline or outright loss of eelgrass beds.
  • Decrease of shellfish like scallops and soft shell clams.
  • Odors from decay of excess vegetation.
As the density of housing development increases, so does the risk of nitrate contaminating the drinking water. (text taken from the Island Blue Pages)

Nitrogen and Septic Information


  • About Septic Systems & Title 5
    Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection website has a number of resources listed on its site including applications and forms, an overview of title 5 regulations and types of wastewater disposal systems, frequently asked questions, a glossary

  • Making an IMPACT: The Watershed Approach
    Issue of Small Flows Magazine.
    By Caigan M. McKenzie
    Nearly 40 percent of streams, 45 percent of lakes, and 50 percent of estuaries that have been assessed across the U.S. are still not clean enough to support uses such as fishing and swimmi

  • Septic System Maintenance
    Septic System Maintenance, published by National Small Flows Clearing House

  • A bay-friendly way to flush : New nitrogen-reducing septic systems
    A bay-friendly way to flush : New nitrogen-reducing septic systems help keep Chesapeake health from going down the drain
    By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer of Capital Online. Published on 02/17/07

  • Application to Addle Canada Goose Eggs in Massachusetts
    David Grunden is sending the Town’s goose egg addling permit in to the MA Division of Fish and Wildlife. The property owner needs to be the applicant. However, persons other than the property owner may be allowed to do the actual addling. Here is a permit application with David's staff listed as permitted to addle eggs on the properties as well as text to justify the issuance of the permit. The top part of the form needs to be filled out by property owner/tenant and mailed to the address at the bottom of the form.
    Click here to download file/form

  • National Small Flows Clearinghouse Journal
    This site links to many great resources on Septic System Information, and Management and Planning for Small Community Wastewater

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