Water Research

water glass

Pharmaceuticals, hormones, and consumer product chemicals are showing up in drinking water throughout the U.S.  Our wastewater and our drinking water are connected through the same water cycle.  How can we safely treat and dispose of our waste without damaging our drinking water quality?

To protect Cape Cod’s coastal marine sanctuary, wastewater is disposed on land, primarily in septic systems. These systems allow pollutants to seep through porous soils, often reaching shallow drinking water wells. Silent Spring Institute is undertaking a number of initiatives aimed at understanding the role that polluted water may play in the disproportionately high levels of breast cancer on Cape Cod.

Drinking water for Cape Cod residents comes from a sole-source aquifer. Because the Cape has a shallow water table and sandy, porous soil, the aquifer is particularly vulnerable to land use activity. Silent Spring Institute’s water quality research focuses on measuring degradation of groundwater affected by wastewater leaching from septic systems into the aquifer. This research is critical because 85 percent of Cape residences use septic systems. This research has provided some of the first data to quantify the levels of hormonally active compounds introduced into groundwater from septic systems and how these compounds behave as they travel through groundwater systems and ultimately end up in drinking water.

Through this work, Silent Spring Institute researchers are providing new information about contamination of drinking water by septic systems and other pollution sources. The goal is to inform wastewater management decisions in order to protect drinking water quality and ecosystem health, now and for future generations.