Region 1: EPA New England
Protecting Drinking Water - Cape Cod, Mass.
No one told him that his solitude would be drowned out by periodic shelling and ordnance booms from a nearby military base. Even worse, no one told him that the Cape's sole source of drinking water was in grave peril from decades of military training activities at the 14,000-acre Massachusetts Military Reservation.
Feigenbaum soon learned the various military activities had contaminated billions of gallons of the Cape's groundwater. "My first walk on the base in the 1980s was like a walk on the moonbarren, bleak terrainbut with piles of disgusting garbage," Feigenbaum recalled. Given the region's exploding growth, and that current water supplies were slated to run short by 2010, it wasn't a situation that could be ignored.
In 1997, EPAin an unprecedented moveordered the military to halt training activities on the base and investigate whether training was harming the environment. The study demonstrated that training was, in fact, damaging the Cape's aquifer, and EPA immediately ordered the military to undertake a major cleanup of contaminated soil, groundwater and unexploded ordnance. The orders were issued under emergency provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
As a result of EPA's actions on the Cape, the Department of Defense is now looking seriously at the environmental impacts that firing rangesencompassing 20 to 50 million acres nationwideare having on groundwater supplies all across the country. The military is reconsidering its use of open burn and open detonation training activities.
For Feigenbaum, the end of the shell blasts and launching of the cleanup are an encouraging first step. "I'm very excited we've gotten this far," he said. "Now we want to make sure that the cleanup is completed."