New Deadline Set For East Harwich Sewer Connections

by William F. Galvin

HARWICH – The water/wastewater commission and board of health agreed last Wednesday to extend the deadline for East Harwich homeowners to connect to the sewer system now functioning in sections of the village. With a Feb. 8 deadline approaching for some property owners, an agreement was reached to move the date to March 1, 2025.

Residents were given two years under board of health regulations to connect to the system once they received notice by mail from the town, said Water/Wastewater Superintendent Dan Pelletier. He said people in various sections of the village were notified through four mailings of the deadline for connecting.

Pelletier said 264 residents were put on notice with that mailing, and to date 108 have committed, leaving 156 properties yet to make the connection. Pelletier said it is very unlikely that those connections are going to be made by Feb. 8.

The town made a commitment to residents that it would make available financial assistance to assist with connection costs, he said, but that never happened.

Pelletier said he has had discussions with Richard Waystack, chair of the board of assessors, about putting financial assistance programs in place, but he was told that would likely require a special act of the legislature, which is likely to take a couple of years.

Barnstable County expanded its AquiFund septic system loan program last March to provide financial assistance for sewer connections, Pelletier said. He recommended the deadline for connections for properties in East Harwich properties be extended to March 1, 2025, two years from the date of the availability of the county’s financial assistance for connections. That will provide an extra 13 months for property owners who received the first mailing, and additional time for residents who received subsequent notices to meet the deadline, Pelletier said.

According to the board of health regulations, connections must occur within two years of official notice from the town of Harwich, Board of Health Chair Sharon Pfleger said. There is also a provision that provides the authority to defer deadlines if in the opinion of the board there is an exceptional burden on property owners.

A question was raised about the need for a public hearing. Pfleger said if a hearing is necessary, it could not take place by the Feb. 8 deadline. Pelletier said he is waiting to hear from town counsel on whether a public hearing is necessary.

Non-criminal dispositions for violations of health regulations usually require him, or the health agent, to assess the fines, said Pfleger. She suggested the town could forgo fines in the interim period.

If a consensus is reached tonight, Pelletier said he would reach out to legal counsel to formalize the action. If a public hearing is required, Pfleger agreed no action should be taken to penalize homeowners before such a hearing.

The health board agreed and voted to put in place the March 1, 2025 deadline for connections to sewers in East Harwich.

Pelletier said 510 properties have been put on notice to connect to the system in East Harwich, and 243 properties have connected. Property owners have been having a hard time getting engineers to design connection systems, he added.

The water/wastewater department provides property owners with a list of 13 engineering firms that do the work. Pelletier said he’s been told only about three companies return calls to property owners, and they estimate five or six months to get the design work done.