Cape Cod Times
Pitch made for Upper Cape wastewater facility
Executive boards on the Upper Cape have gotten a peek at a state-funded regional study that proposes tackling wastewater management to the tune of $155 million through local capital projects.
The towns participating in the study are Sandwich, Mashpee, Falmouth and Bourne. The study envisions a joint solution addressing the towns’ and region’s wastewater needs by building a larger wastewater treatment facility on Joint Base Cape Cod.
Each town’s collection system would connect to that expanded base infrastructure, which would serve as the regional facility.
The four towns were awarded two Community Compact Cabinet Efficiency and Regionalization grants as part of a state program, one in December 2016 and the other in late 2018.
Falmouth is the fiscal agent through which the grant money comes, according to Edward Leonard, senior project manager at Wright-Pierce, the engineering firm spearheading the study.
Barnstable joined the study earlier this year but was too late to have access to the grants. If it decides to be included in the resulting plan, the cost of the regional project would increase.
Leonard made a presentation to Sandwich on Aug. 1. Similar presentations were made to Falmouth and Mashpee on Monday and Bourne on Tuesday.
“It’s a sketch plan for what a regional facility would look like, how big it would need to be, what it would cost,” he said. “And then develop a roadmap to help the towns get from here to there if they choose to do so.”
The existing treatment plant on Joint Base Cape Cod can process roughly 75,000 to 100,000 gallons of effluent. However, that capacity addresses only 2% of the identified needs, according to the study.
As part of the plan, the towns would individually fund and build pipelines connecting their wastewater infrastructure to the base, additional transmission piping to get from the plant to the vicinity of the existing disposal site and expanded disposal facilities, Leonard said. He said there have been no decisions made so far about the type of disposal, whether it be land-based disposal or surface-water discharge into the Cape Cod Canal.
Leonard said the four towns have met more than a dozen times to discuss the regionalization effort, though historically there have been smaller town-to-town partnerships on the issue of wastewater management, specifically on reducing septic system runoff and nitrogen levels in shared watersheds.
“Each of the towns have been working with their adjacent town, but this is the first one where all four are together,” Leonard said.
Falmouth Town Manager Julian Suso said each town has different wastewater needs. Falmouth has two wastewater treatment facilities with very low nitrogen discharge, he said.
“It’s not drinkable water, but it’s treated to the fullest extent possible,” Suso said.
Bourne, Mashpee and Sandwich, on the other hand, have a number of small-scale treatment systems, primarily septic systems.
Mashpee officials have been squabbling over investments they’d like to make in wastewater infrastructure to help improve the nitrogen-burdened Popponesset and Waquoit bays. The water quality in all of the bays’ subbasins fail to meet state water quality standards, causing whole-scale habitat decline, according to Brian Howes, professor of marine science and technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Mashpee selectmen have attempted to salvage a couple of big ticket articles slated for town meeting this fall that seek funds to design a sewer collection system and wastewater treatment plant. The fate of those proposed wastewater warrant articles is unclear.
Bourne officials responded positively to the presentation, but were concerned about the impact high-volume discharge from the base would have on the canal.
Judith Froman, chairwoman of the Bourne Board of Selectmen, said she is concerned about “the types of pollutants that would still be in that water,” including how it might affect the livelihood of recreational and commercial fishing there.
— Follow Tanner Stening on Twitter: @tsteningCCT.