The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has published a map of properties affected by new regulations intended to reduce nitrogen pollution.

Updates to septic system and watershed regulations, intended to combat nitrogen pollution in certain coastal areas, took effect on July 7.

The updates are to the Title 5 regulation (310 CMR 15.000), which pertains to the construction and maintenance of septic systems, and the Watershed Permit Regulations (314 CMR 21.00), which establish a watershed permitting strategy to prevent pollutants from entering coastal waters. The regulatory changes were spearheaded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Nitrogen pollution in coastal waters, including estuaries and embayments, can cause an overgrowth of algae, invasive plants and weeds that cut off supports for naturally occurring plants and animals. Coastal areas including Cape Cod, the islands, and southeastern Massachusetts, have experienced elevated levels of nitrogen pollution, primarily as a result of septic systems and wastewater disposal.

The new regulations designate 30 watersheds as “Nitrogen Sensitive Areas,” in which individual residents or the community as a whole must update septic systems with nitrogen-reducing technologies. The MassDEP has published a map of properties impacted by these regulations.

These communities now have a two-year window to obtain a 20-year watershed permit, which would enable them to design and implement strategies to combat nitrogen pollution on behalf of their residents, allowing for a more centralized problem-solving approach.

Should Cape Cod communities choose not to apply for a watershed permit within the two-year planning and application period, any new septic systems installed in Nitrogen Sensitive Areas will be required to include enhanced nitrogen reducing technology. Existing septic systems in communities without a watershed permit will also be required to update their systems within five years.

Nitrogen removal technology installation costs for homeowners can range from $17,000 to $36,000, according to the MassDEP.

For more information, including regulatory revisions in response to public comment, visit the Watershed Permit Regulations and Title 5 Regulation websites.

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