Water quality in many coastal areas is threatened by sewage — untreated or badly treated wastewater escaping either from municipal sewers and treatment plants, or from onsite septic systems, or both. On Cape Cod in Massachusetts, that problem could mean legal action: a lawsuit aimed at forcing towns to upgrade their treatment plants and tighten their regulation over onsite systems. According to the Sandwich Broadsider, the impetus for the suit comes in part from activist attorney Bill Golden (" Cape could face lawsuit to clean up waters, attorney says," by Doreen Leggett). As town solicitor for the town of Quincy, Mass., Golden sparked off a lawsuit in the 1980s that forced Massachusetts to clean up the Boston Harbor water by building a $4.5 billion sewage treatment facility (the world's largest). Cape Cod's not Boston, and the problem on the Cape is of a different scale and character. But the same nonprofit that backed Golden's Boston Harbor litigation, the Conservation Law Foundation, has been researching and laying the groundwork for legal action on Cape Cod. And, reports the Broadsider, they plan to sue again. In the long run, a successful lawsuit would probably mean billions spent on upgrading municipal infrastructure, and millions spent on advanced onsite wastewater treatment measures. In the short run, the litigation could simply put the brakes on coastal development. In the 1980s Boston Harbor case, Golden won an immediate injunction stopping any new sewer hookups in 43 Boston-area communities. It's that kind of legal clout — enhanced by the fact that the U.S. EPA has listed local waters as "impaired" — that has coastal communities taking Golden's legal threat very, very seriously. For additional coverage, see the Barnstable Patriot editorial (" Changing the game on wastewater") and the Cape Cod Times (" Cape coastal cleanup could go to court," by Doug Fraser).