Cape Machine Gun Range Will Face Public EPA Review

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CAPE COD, Mass. (State House News Service) — Residents on Cape Cod will have a chance next year to directly weigh in on the National Guard's plan to build a machine gun range at Joint Base Cape Cod after the state's senators and the region's congressman lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency to consider the range's impact on local drinking water.

Because the Cape's groundwater aquifer is the principal source of the area's drinking water and was designated a "sole source aquifer" by the EPA in 1982, federally-funded projects there can be put under review by the EPA. Last week, EPA announced that it will "provide additional information and offer a public participation process" as part of the review it first announced in August.

That decision was cheered by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey as well as Congressman Bill Keating, all three of whom have called for greater scrutiny of the proposed machine gun range and said the "overwhelming majority of constituents" they heard from wanted EPA to take a closer look at the project.

"This review process is crucial to understanding the impact the gun range poses to public health, public safety and our public lands with input from both abutters and those who rely on Cape Cod's sole source aquifer for safe, clean, and plentiful drinking water," Warren, Markey and Keating said in a statement last week. "We remain concerned about the unknown effects that the construction of this gun range could have on the aquifer and are hopeful that this review will provide much-needed answers to the residents of Cape Cod."

EPA said last week that it expects to publish a draft sole source aquifer determination in the spring "with a possible extension." The agency said it would then open a 30-day public comment period and hold a hearing to accept verbal testimony from the public.

EPA said the purpose of the review it announced in August "is to evaluate whether the proposed ... project has the potential to contaminate the aquifer so as to create a significant hazard to public health."

If the review determines that the machine gun range has the potential to contaminate the aquifer, EPA said it "will begin negotiations to modify the project. If negotiations are not successful, federal funds can be denied." If EPA's review determines that the project does not have the potential to create a significant public health hazard by contaminating the aquifer, the agency said it might still recommend measures "to provide additional protections for the aquifer."

By Colin A. Young, State House News Service

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