Mashpee Watershed Nitrogen Management Plan Completed; Now, What?

After 14 years of work by the Mashpee Sewer Commission and a team of consultants, the final draft of the town’s watershed nitrogen management plan was presented to the board of selectmen on June 2.

While the plan, presented by sewer commission chairman F. Thomas Fudala, was widely perceived as strong and sound, the main concern raised by the board was how to proceed with the plan and whether it or the Mashpee Water District should jointly submit the plan for regulatory approval.

In April, Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick signed a legislative act establishing the creation of a Mashpee Water and Sewer District. However, it will be at least a year until the combination of the two entities becomes finalized, since the legislation must be approved by voters at the May 2015 town election.

The plan, which features a significant shellfish propagation component to significantly offset the cost of a traditional sewering system, must now be submitted for review by the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the Cape Cod Commission.

“My inclination and desire is to move forward with this and not wait another year,” Mashpee Selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb said.

Meanwhile, Mashpee Board of Selectmen chairman Wayne E. Taylor raised the concern of moving the plan forward without consulting with the Mashpee Water District, which is likely to have control over implementation of the plan.

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Mr. Fudala, who also serves as an elected commissioner of the Mashpee Water District, told the board that the district commissioners have to date declined to participate in any sewer commission activities or meetings.

“That’s not true. We haven’t been actively involved in the planning because we have no jurisdiction. Right now, the sewer commission reports to the town and the board of selectmen. We are bystanders. Moving the plan forward for regulatory approval is the town’s decision, the ball is 100 percent in their court. It’s none of our business,” Kenneth E. Marsters, chairman of the Mashpee Water District Commission, said.

Mr. Marsters also noted that should the legislation pass at the ballot box next spring, the water district’s intent is to keep the current sewer commission on board, and maintain the continuity of the plan.

Rather than vote to immediately move the plan forward for regulatory approval, a vote was taken by the board that would allow Mr. Gottlieb two weeks to consult with the Mashpee Water District to gauge its interest in being involved in the submittal process. A vote to move the plan forward would then be taken by the board at its June 16 meeting.

“I am meeting with Ken Marsters on Tuesday [June 10],” Mr. Gottlieb said. “We have been talking about wastewater management for years, and in the meantime our bays have been getting worse for decades. This is a sound plan, and until the vote is taken next year, the town is the responsible entity for moving it forward.”

Mr. Gottlieb also noted that even if the legislation passes at next year’s election, the town will continue to have an ongoing role in executing and implementing the plan.

“My major concern is that the water district was basically formed as a utility, and there are a lot of soft solutions in the plan, such as shellfish propagation, that do not fall into the traditional definition of wastewater treatment. How this will work and get paid for will be interesting—the town will likely need to be involved. The legislation should have called for the formation of a Mashpee Water Pollution Abatement District as opposed to a Mashpee Water and Sewer District,” he said.

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