At a meeting at the Falmouth Public Library on March 23, the plan to expand the Falmouth sewer system to serve part of the Maravista and Falmouth Heights area around Little Pond was the main topic of discussion. Concerns were raised over the financial costs to design, construct, operate and maintain that system for many decades to come and whether extending the town’s sewer system to that area was the best option to pursue at this time.
Alternatively, Falmouth taxpayers committed about $2 million in 2011 to test and evaluate nontraditional methods to address the water quality problem such as shellfish aquaculture, eco-toilets, inlet widening and permeable reactive barriers that may prove to be more cost-effective as well as more energy-, water- and nutrient-conserving methods. That program is presently under implementation with the results expected within about three years and is being conducted in partnership with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
At the meeting, Marc Finneran made the point that, after about 40 years of operation of the sewer system that surrounds Eel Pond in Woods Hole, Eel Pond has only been marginally improved and remains in an impaired state. Falmouth’s Wastewater Superintendent, Gerald C. Potamis, replied by stating that the Woods Hole sewer was never designed to remediate the water quality in Eel Pond. Well, what’s interesting is that the new sewer system at a cost of $41 million, as planned for Little Pond, will also not meet the state’s nitrogen load reduction requirements for that estuary. That proposed sewer expansion will fall short by 12 percent, which means that Little Pond will remain in an impaired state even with that enormous investment. It remains unclear how the balance of the nitrogen that must be removed will be achieved.
Committing to a sewer system at this time that will fall short of its intended objective at enormous cost is premature in that the results from the town-financed evaluation of the nontraditional methods are still outstanding but should be known soon. It is anticipated that those methods will result in a lower-cost solution to solve the problem. In fact, the town expects that those methods will avoid any further cost-intensive sewering in Falmouth. So, why sewer the Little Pond lower watershed now?
I appeal to Town Meeting members to vote no on Annual Town Meeting Warrant Article 28 to finance the sewer expansion to allow the time for the assessment of the town-financed alternatives to be completed. We can then proceed with the full knowledge of all options which should allow us to follow a comprehensive plan that will actually bring Little Pond and the other Falmouth estuaries into full compliance in the most cost-efficient manner with state and federal guidelines.
Janet M. Kluever