Cape Cod Times
By Geoff Spillane
Posted Jun 26, 2019 at 6:38 PM
Updated at 6:32 AM
Barnstable Board of Health says no to amended regulations
More work needed on wastewater plan.
HYANNIS — Barnstable is making progress on developing and funding a comprehensive wastewater management plan, but not enough to convince its Board of Health to lift decade-old interim regulations affecting development in much of the town.
After a five month hiatus, a public hearing that began in late 2018 on proposed amendments to saltwater estuary protection regulations resumed, and ended, at the Health Board’s meeting on Tuesday.
In a 2-1 decision, the board voted to maintain the regulations as written. Board Member John Norman was the dissenting vote.
The regulations, which were adopted in 2009, restrict construction of individual sewage systems in most of the town south of Route 6 to protect the Popponesset Bay, Three Bays and Centerville River watersheds. They were intended to be temporary and only in effect until the town adopted and implemented a comprehensive plan to reduce the amount of nitrogen in its estuaries.
The words “adopted” and “implemented,” it turned out, were key factors in the board’s decision.
The proposed amendment would have lifted the regulations in all areas except the Craigville Beach Zoning District, which is under the jurisdiction of the Cape Cod Commission. Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells, though, said earlier this year that his focus was for relief along a 500-foot buffer on both sides of Route 28 to pursue housing development and economic opportunities to generate revenue for the town.
Barnstable Public Works Director Daniel Santos addressed the board Tuesday to provide an update on the town’s progress on wastewater management projects and its three-phase, 60-year sewering project. He also wanted to “quell voices” suggesting the town does not have a plan.
While a draft comprehensive wastewater management plan is not scheduled to be delivered to the Town Council, Cape Cod Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection until fall, Santos highlighted several initiatives completed, underway or planned in Barnstable. Those include Phinney’s Lane, Long Pond area and Attucks Lane sewer expansions; Cotuit Bay channel dredging; a pump station and collection system at the Marstons Mills School; several improvements to the town’s water pollution control facility; and potentially aligning with Upper Cape towns to utilize wastewater treatment facilities at Joint Base Cape Cod.
In addition, the Town Council unanimously approved an $8.5 million appropriation last week to construct sewer infrastructure simultaneously and along the same route Vineyard Wind plans to run an underground transmission line in town.
“In conclusion, it’s important for you to know there’s a very robust plan,” Santos said. “No town on the Cape has put more personnel or financial resources into their wastewater plan. Not a single one.”
Dr. Paul Canniff, chairman of the Board of Health, focused on the verbiage of the regulations, specifically the temporary status until a plan was adopted and implemented.
“When the pipes go into the ground, you are there,” he said. “Not three to four to five years before.”
Canniff also mentioned that since the interim regulations went into effect, the board has granted variances to projects if an applicant can meet certain criteria.
Several audience members, as they have done during the past four public hearing sessions, offered comments.
Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, applauded the town for strides it has made to move forward with wastewater projects, but thought the plan would take too long to complete.
“When and if it’s implemented, I’ll be 124-years-old, God willing,” he said. Crocker added that local waters have been compromised early in the summer this year, suggesting regulations could be even stricter.
Crocker’s colleague, Casey Dannhauser, told the board it would be irresponsible to lift the regulations until improvements begin to be seen in the town’s waterways.
Barnstable Town Councilor Jessica Rapp Grassetti referred to the town’s wastewater management efforts to date as “fabulous,” adding that she is happy to vote in favor of appropriations. But she urged the Board of Health to withdraw the agenda item until results of sewering projects in the works could be demonstrated.
“I’m very relieved,” Rapp Grassetti said after the meeting. “Now we can work on finalizing a draft (wastewater management plan) and acceptance by the Mass. DEP and Cape Cod Commission.”
— Follow Geoff Spillane on Twitter: @GSpillaneCCT.