Cape Cod Times
Posted Jan 4, 2019 at 7:36 PM
Updated Jan 5, 2019 at 7:31 AM
Barnstable: Wastewater plan in the works
Town responds to critics with overview of efforts, timeline for final draft.
HYANNIS — The town of Barnstable has a message for critics who recently faulted it for not having a comprehensive wastewater management plan: We have been working on solutions for years and the plan is forthcoming.
During a nearly two-hour, 50-slide presentation and discussion at the Barnstable Town Council meeting Thursday, Daniel Santos, director of the Department of Public Works, provided a detailed overview of wastewater management efforts undertaken in the Cape’s largest town since 2015.
“We are committed to the estuary issues,” said newly elected Town Council President James Crocker. “There is no other town on the peninsula that is as forward-thinking on this than the town of Barnstable.”
Crocker said it was important to show townspeople how many professionals experienced in the subject are employed by the town — several attended the meeting — and how much time has been spent on wastewater management issues.
Controversy about the lack of an approved wastewater management plan emerged in the fall when the Barnstable Board of Health was asked to consider an amendment to modify or eliminate interim regulations to restrict nitrogen flow into saltwater estuaries.
The regulations, which affect most of the town south of Route 6, were put in place 10 years ago to restrict the nitrogen flow by limiting development in certain areas. They were meant to be temporary until the town developed and adopted a comprehensive plan.
Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells has said he advocates easing the interim regulations for a 500-foot buffer along Route 28 through town to allow for housing development opportunities.
The Board of Health has continued a hearing on the matter until Jan. 22.
The lack of a plan opened the town up to criticism from some community leaders and environmental groups, including a threat of a lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation if any of the regulations were lifted. A 2011 lawsuit by the foundation was the impetus for the mandated development of the Cape’s Section 208 regional water-quality management plan.
A final draft of the Barnstable plan will be submitted to the Town Council in the spring, and plans will be presented to the Cape Cod Commission and state Department of Environmental Protection in the summer and fall, respectively, according to a timeline included in Santos’ presentation.
The plan, designed to be flexible to accommodate changing environments, emerging contaminants of concern and new technologies, is being developed to encompass three 20-year phases, Santos said.
Santos highlighted many traditional and nontraditional projects already underway in town, including expansion of the Attucks Lane pump station; designs for sewer system expansion in the areas of Long Pond and Phinney’s Lane; Cotuit Bay Inlet and Mill Pond dredging; aquaculture in Warren’s Cove; cranberry bog conversions in Marstons Mills; alternative septic system installations; placement of permeable reactive barriers; and stormwater treatment activities.
“I think we were able to provide the Town Council a very detailed, comprehensive look at what our wastewater planning activities have been,” Santos said. “It allowed them to come up to speed on issues and start conversations on funding and implementation.”
Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, praised the town for preparing to submit a plan, but noted it is not finished yet.
“They don’t have a county- or state-approved plan,” he said.
Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, called the presentation “very solid” and a step in the right direction, but thought the 60-year duration for carrying out solutions was too long.
“Planning is one thing, but action is another,” Crocker said. “We need to start instituting sooner rather than later.”
At its next meeting Jan. 17, the council will hold public hearings to appropriate $250,000 for a feasibility study to evaluate using the wastewater treatment facility at Joint Base Cape Cod for future sewer expansion for western areas of town and $250,000 to retain a consultant to begin conceptual planning for sewer expansion into the village of Cotuit.
“I think we have a professional management team at the DPW that we should be proud of,” Town Councilor Jennifer Cullum said. “Through better engagement with the community and civic associations, hopefully we can get the word out that significant progress is being made (on the wastewater management plan) and we are planning for the future.”