chat with a local :: Kalliope Egloff 

With the Standing Rock Sioux tribe leading protests in North Dakota aimed at preventing the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline from contaminating water supplies and sacred lands, the awareness of water as a precious resource is higher than ever right now. We turned to local expert Kalliope Egloff, San Francisco born and Plymouth raised, for advice. As the Hazardous Materials Environmental Specialist for Barnstable County, Kalliope shares excellent information with the public through She is passionate about keeping Cape Cod’s water supply free of contaminants and safe to drink (not to mention the impact on our natural environment), so we’re grateful that she could educate us on how our actions affect the clean water supply and how we can better protect it.

Describe your role as a HazMat Environmental Specialist.
My role is to assist people with their hazardous and difficult-to-manage wastes (needles, flares, mercury, medications), interacting annually with around 6,000 people. I also work with all the towns and districts on the Cape on their hazardous materials and difficult-to-manage waste issues. I work with police, fire, water, health, DPW, and other related departments. I also operate WET Festival, an interactive, water-based educational activity fair for our youngest stakeholders in grades 3-6.

Why is the Cape’s water supply so fragile? And why is it important to protect it?
We live on a sand bar, and we are surrounded by water. It’s under us, around us, and we are permeated with it with all of our streams, ponds, lakes. Our water source is an unconfined, sole-source aquifer. It’s rare and the EPA gives us a unique designation. If you pour something on the ground, it joins the drinking water source in a day or two, because the aquifer is unconfined and has no protection. One gallon of gas can contaminate a million gallons of our drinking water!

Can you name the primary threats to the Cape’s clean water supply?
The top threats to our clean water are improperly stored hazardous waste and spills. Everyone has a little hazmat, whether they use gas on their boat, have a pool, clean their home, or kill insects. Asking small businesses you use on how they dispose of their wastes would be reasonable, like house painters, jewelers, landscapers. Barnstable County has a small business hazwaste program that is very affordable and convenient. {editors’ note: on Love Your Local Water, there is even a section for artists’ hidden hazards, as well as how to dispose of unwanted medicines properly, an easy guide to how and where to dispose of household hazmat, a visitor’s guide, and more!}

What can Cape Codders do to better protect our water sources?
Cape Codders could use safer alternatives to harsh chemicals, get rid of the ones they don’t need, and tell their friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors about their healthy choices and how they got rid of their home and garden, small business, art and hobby chemicals. Finding safer alternatives is a very good start. In case of flooding, fire, or other disasters, it’s good to have minimal amounts of hazardous materials on your property. Maintaining your septic system, so it works optimally, is helpful. There are lots of resources on the internet on a keeping chemical-free house and septic system maintenance. Involving your family in the conversation, especially children, is good too.

How can we do better at managing hazardous waste, which is directly impacts our local water quality?
The first step is acceptance! Everyone has hazardous stuff. Identifying what is, how to store it, and properly dispose of it is a good start. Household hazardous wastes would be found in the shed (lawn/garden/pool/auto); barn (farm and garden); home (pool/cleaners/oil-paints/legacy wastes/needles/medicine); garage (boat/auto); studio space (art/hobby). Then, spread the word about what you are doing to keep your house hazardous waste-free!

Do you have a few tips on conserving water that are easy to implement?
Water conservation is easy. 100% of the public water supply is treated to drinking water standards and about 1% is actually used for drinking. Familiarize yourself with your water bill so you have a baseline of water use. Being mindful of water, as opposed to mindless, is also a good start. Being grateful and aware that we have access to cheap, clean, available water is reasonable. Little actionable items, like shutting off the water during brushing teeth and fixing holes in your garden hose is easy. Yards may be planted with drought-resistant grasses, shrubs, trees. There are lots of water conservation actions on the Internet.

What’s your favorite way to spend a Cape Cod day?
I travel to all towns and villages on the Cape for my work and love it dearly. I am lucky to live in Provincetown and Mashpee. Things I love to do are to take a walk, going boating, or exploring. Whether walking through the dunes and forests, biking on a trail, going shell-fishing with my family, tending to my honeybees, or strolling through a town like Chatham, I love a Cape Cod day.

Thank you, Kalliope! Follow her Facebook page for more on how you can Love Your Local Water on Cape Cod.

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