After a debate on how much residents would be willing to pay for filtered drinking water, Town Meeting members agreed by two-thirds majority to bring the proposed new water treatment plant to the May 20 ballot.
Article 26 authorizes $46.5 million to construct a water treatment facility, replacing the current plant and chlorination facility on Long Pond, built more than 100 years ago. It would supply Falmouth with about two-thirds of its drinking water. The project’s cost will be split evenly between water rates and a tax levy, although town leaders again anticipate no tax increase because the town is retiring other debt. Department of Public Works director Raymond A. Jack said starting in 2016 residents would see a doubling of their minimum water use charge and a 30 percent increase on the excess water portion.
“Three options were brought to the board of selectmen last year, ranging from $20 to $40 million for drinking water. Why did you go with the most expensive option?, asked Kathleen R. Driscoll, Precinct Seven. “We’re going to be literally flushing ultra-filtered drinking water down the toilet,” she added.
Board of selectmen chairman Brent V.W. Putnam assured Ms. Driscoll that the board seriously considered all options.
“We wanted to make sure we addressed all the issues—turbidity, color, odor and taste. Why pay $35 million but still have funny tasting water, or bad smelling water? We wouldn’t want to spend that kind of money and not have all the issues addressed,” he added.
In 2013 federal Environmental Protection Agency gave Falmouth two violations for exceeding acceptable levels of disinfection byproducts in the drinking water. In 2010, Falmouth was hit with a boil water order following the discovery of E. coli in the water supply. Mr. Jack has been advocating for a new filtration plant.
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“We’re wasting money on buying bottled water, said Barbara P. Schneider, Precinct Four. She said she recently purchased 40 gallons of water in preparation for company staying at her house. “We need to keep working for healthy water,” she added.
The new facility would be sited on an estimated 38-acre piece of town land with a new paved road through the woods of what used to be a town-run tree farm.