I’ve already addressed this thorny issue at length once, but now that Eric Steinhilber, candidate for the Barnstable County Board of County Commissioners, has launched a new campaign website that makes the proposed region-wide wastewater management entity a key issue, I found reason for a brief update.
Mr. Steinhilber makes two remarks about the proposal, the first of which is:
Eric says “NO MWRA for Cape Cod.” Eric will lead the charge against the creation of a Cape-Wide Regional Wastewater Authority, which would burden Cape residents with new taxes and huge water bill increases. Eric will seek the protection of our water resources through the enforcement of existing regulations and common-sense, cost-effective solutions.
The second one, listed under the header of “taxes,” says this:
Eric will fight to stop any and all attempts to impose new county taxes on the families, seniors, and businesses of Cape Cod. Eric will work to protect residents by stopping Cape-wide sewer project proposals, which alone, could cost each homeowner over $60,000 in new taxes.
My earlier post (linked above) addresses comment number one, so I’m going to focus here on comment number two, specifically Mr. Steinhilber’s claim that a Cape-wide sewering project “could cost each homeowner over $60,000 in new taxes.”
Mr. Steinhilber does not cite a source for this figure, which is much higher than other numbers quoted by county officials and consultants in recent months.
Robert Ciolek, an independent consultant working with the Cape Cod Water Protection Collaborative, reported last summer that the capital costs of region-wide sewering would range between $3.2 billion and $5.8 billion – a price range that does not take into consideration ongoing operating costs of $40 million to $68 million each year.
The capital costs alone break down to up to (repeat: up to) $27,000 per person, or $33,000 per property, Mr. Ciolek reported — at worst, a little more than half the amount Mr. Steinhilber quoted.
(However, this assumes that every single property owner on Cape Cod would pay into the capital costs, which Mr. Ciolek said is not the case. According to him, no more than half of all Cape residents – the region’s homeowners – would shoulder the financial burden. He also said that charging betterments on homeowners was not as equitable a system for funding such an infrastructure as through rates and fees for system users.)
So where does this $60,000 figure come from? Mr. Steinhilber appears to be misquoting a figure contained in the Cape Cod Wastewater Protection Collaborative’s April 2010 report comparing the costs of various wastewater management systems.
On page 27, there is a table comparing the various costs of a satellite wastewater management system, which is a system that serves “from 30 to 1,000 homes (wastewater flows between 10,000 [gallons per day] and 300,000 gpd), intended to treat and dispose of wastewater from one area of a town.”
The estimated capital cost range for such a system is $46,000 to $60,000 — and this is the ONLY time that $60,000 number appears in that entire report.
Mr. Steinhilber has it wrong. His claim that “Cape-wide sewer project proposals…could cost each homeowner over $60,000 in new taxes” applies the quoted dollar figure for one type of wastewater management project to a different type. Based on existing analyses, the estimated per-property cost for a regional sewer system is at worst $33,000, while decentralized satellite systems would cost nearly twice as much: $60,000. Further, that amount would not be applied to “each homeowner,” but to fewer than half according to Mr. Ciolek — who does not endorse that funding method.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.