The Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) is a collaborative effort of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. The goal of this project is to restore and protect estuaries in southeastern Massachusetts. MEP works with regional and local agencies to address the pressing problem of nutrient overloading in ponds, bays and estuaries. Communities, such as the Town of Falmouth, contribute to the cost of the assessment.
The MEP program technical reports summarize their evaluations and determination of the nitrogen limits. These limits are then used by MassDEP as Total Maximum Daily Loading (TMDL) values, which are submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to become regulatory thresholds.
Technical Evaluation Goal
The goal of the technical evaluations is to collect data, do water quality modeling and determine the amount of nitrogen that a water body can assimilate, called the nutrient threshold. The first step in the process is to collect data on the quantity of nitrogen present in the watersheds. This data is collected by volunteers, towns and other entities. Falmouth and its many citizen volunteers have a great history, successfully initiating this process and collecting many years of data. SMAST and MassDEP use hydrodynamic and water quality modeling, site specific assessment information and other data to determine the nutrient threshold.
The community will typically then develop a Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan to assess how to reduce the load of nutrients in local watersheds. As mentioned above, this data is also provided to MassDEP and U.S. EPA and the nitrogen thresholds and limits become the TMDL limits, with regulatory implications.