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Groundwater Natural Resources Damages Assessment: A New Restoration Tool for Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ ground and surface waters are interconnected and renewable hydrological resources whose protection and restoration are critical to insure the availability of safe and potable drinking water for current and future needs; promote sustainable and equitable development; and sustain water-dependent ecosystems. Groundwater restoration encompasses a wide range of strategies to develop, protect, maintain and conserve current and potential drinking water supplies as well as offset ecological impacts related to diminished water quantity or quality. Natural resource damages assessment (NRD) is a legal tool available to compensate the public for injury to groundwater resulting from the release of contaminants by restoring groundwater resources and the services they provide. In 2008, a $1 million NRD settlement with Textron Systems Corporation, a defense contractor that conducted weapons testing in a section of the Massachusetts Military Reservation, compensated the public for natural resources and services lost due to Textron’s release of contaminants in a major groundwater recharge area for the Cape Cod Sole Source Aquifer. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will describe the groundwater NRD assessment and restoration planning process. Over the coming year, groundwater restoration projects will be implemented to achieve one or more of the following objectives: Protect the quality of current and potential drinking water supplies by protecting aquifers, recharge areas, and watersheds, including environmentally sensitive lands and critical habitats; protect the quantity of current and potential drinking water supplies by implementing measures to conserve water, reduce losses of clean water to aquifers, and provide quality recharge to aquifers, including offsets that also mitigate impacts to water-dependent ecosystems; or integrate planning and management of current and potential drinking water supplies and wastewater treatment, with an emphasis on the efficient use of land, energy, and water and regional or multi-community benefits.
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