Bourne Eyes Public-Private Wastewater Partnership

Having identified Queen Sewell Park as the best location for subsurface disposal of Bourne’s treated wastewater, attention has now turned to whether the town should pay to build its own wastewater treatment system, to turn such a project over to a private developer, or enter into a public-private partnership. The prevailing opinion, as voiced by Wastewater Advisory Committee chairman Sallie K. Riggs, is that the last would be in the best interest of the town.

Ms. Riggs spoke at a meeting of the Bourne Sewer Commissioners Tuesday night. Commission chairman Peter J. Meier invited members of the Bourne Planning Board to attend the meeting. Planning board chairman Christopher J. Farrell and member Elmer I. Clegg both attended. Mr. Meier said that it was important for the sewer commissioners to give the wastewater committee some direction. He added that installation of a wastewater treatment system would provide incentive for new business growth in Bourne.


“You’re going to have to dangle a carrot in order to get some development on Main Street, and this is one of those carrots,” he said.

Ms. Riggs mentioned that a report compiled for the town by the engineering firm of CH2M Hill in July 2012 recommended that the best option relative to constructing a wastewater treatment system in Bourne would be to develop a public-private partnership, Ms. Riggs said.

“The advantage of going in this direction is that the entire financial burden does not fall on the town,” she said.

The cost to the town to build a waste treatment system on its own has been estimated at $10 million to $121 million. With a public-private partnership, the town would provide the land for subsurface disposal, and pay for the pumps and pipes linked to a treatment facility that would be built and paid for by a developer. The cost to the developer for using town-owned land for wastewater dispersal would be agreed on during the negotiation process. Mr. Meier estimated the town could save up to 80 percent of that total cost by entering into a public-private partnership.

Under an agreement with the Town of Wareham, Bourne can send 200,000 gallons of wastewater per day to be treated there. The town currently sends 130,000 gallons a day to the Wareham facility, at a cost of $734 per home in Bourne. There is, in addition, a one cent surcharge to ratepayers for every gallon above 40,000 per year.

Ms. Riggs pointed out that about nine months ago both she and wastewater advisory committee member Wesley J. Ewell had met with a developer who has an option on the 11.5-acre parcel known as the Byron Estate. She said the developer, whom she declined to identify, has expressed an interest in helping the town with its wastewater situation.

The catch, she said, is that the developer’s plans for the land—whether it is retail, a hotel, a conference center, or mixed use—are unknown at this time.

Mr. Meier questioned who would be shouldering the cost burden of any new wastewater system. Would the cost be passed on to new developments in town, or would it fall on residents who are already paying as part of the Wareham system. Ms. Riggs said the goal would be to have the new system support any new development that comes into town.

“As other development takes place in town, or redevelopment that requires more sewer capacity, they would buy into that new system,” she said, adding that there would be no impact on existing ratepayers.

Mr. Clegg asked if the developer could install his own wastewater treatment system somewhere on the 11.5-acre lot on which he plans to build. Ms. Riggs said the hydrogeologic studies done have shown that the only location in town that is suitable for subsurface disposal of wastewater is Queen Sewell Park, which is town-owned land.
She added it is highly likely that whatever the developer builds, the amount of wastewater produced will exceed whatever gallon amount the town can allot to be sent to Wareham.

“If he exceeds capacity, he has no option. There is no place on his property to do subsurface disposal,” she said.

Mr. Farrell agreed that a public-partnership is the most advantageous avenue for the town to pursue. He added that the town is in a good negotiating position, given the land limitation the developer faces for any wastewater treatment system.

“The town is in a superior stance right now because we have a spot that is identified for subsurface disposal. You won’t find that in a lot of communities that are in a floodplain, such as Main Street Buzzards Bay,” he said.

He suggested that the sewer commissioners charge the wastewater committee to continue to explore the possibility of a public-private partnership with the developer. He noted that for the purposes of any negotiations, it will be essential to have a sense of the number of gallons of wastewater that might be created. He said that figure cannot be estimated until the developer’s plans for the land are known.

“Until we know what the plan is, we’re just spinning our wheels,” he said.

Mr. Farrell confirmed that the developer will be making a preliminary, non-formal presentation to the planning board on May 22. He also suggested that the sewer commissioners direct the planning board to appoint one of its members to the wastewater advisory committee.


 Correction 5/5/2014 11:37am: It was incorrectly reported in last week's Bourne Enterprise that such a system would cost $100 million.

Wastewater Advisory Committee chairman Sallie K. Riggs pointed out that $100 million was an estimated figure for a wastewater treatment system that would serve the entire town of Bourne.


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