CHATHAM – Another round of sewer funding – this time for $31 million – will go before voters at the May annual town meeting. The money will cover the next phase in the town's 20-year wastewater project and include replacement of a section of sewer main downtown that was part of the original sewer system installed more than 40 years ago.
Most of the money will be used to install sewers along the Route 137 corridor south as far as the bike path, including mains that will bring sewage from East Harwich to the town's wastewater treatment plant off Sam Ryder Road via Middle Road. That part of the project will be contingent on an inter-municipal agreement between the two towns that will also appear on the warrant but which is still the subject of negotiations (see separate story).
Several factors guided the decision to sewer this area as this time, said Robert Duncanson, director of natural resources. The targeted area includes Commerce Park, the town's main industrial area, and officials feel it is important to mitigate the potential for improper disposal of materials into the septic systems, since it is near town well fields.
Also, a new facility to treat iron and manganese in two town wells will be located within the area, and roads will be dug up for new water lines to bring raw water to the plant; it made sense to install sewer lines at the same time, he said. There will also be residual waste from the water treatment plan that is better treated at the sewer plant than through lagoons or an on-site septic system, he added.
The Harwich connection will be made at the Old Queen Anne Road/Route 137 intersection. Harwich will install mains to that point, and Chatham will build the system to take the sewage to the wastewater plant, with the cost offset by payments from Harwich.
Even if something happens to scuttle the agreement between Chatham and Harwich, this phase of the sewer expansion will move ahead due to the water main work necessary for the water treatment plant. Doing that and the sewer mains at the same time means less disruption to the neighborhood and potential cost savings, Duncanson said.
The work will also help address the nitrogen loading issues that are the real target of the town's long-term wastewater management plan. Specifically, this area is in the watershed for Mill Creek and Taylor's Pond.
Construction won't begin until 2019, Duncanson said, following 18 to 24 months of engineering and planning. This phase of the sewer project is expected to take two years.
Funds in the article will also cover work along the original sewer main installed downtown in 1969 or 1970. Late last year workers began noticing pieces of sewer pipe in manholes and sent a video camera down to investigate, discovering extensive problems with the mains from Cross Street to Chatham Bars Avenue, including cracked pipes, corrosion, joint separation, and even a complete lack of piping along the bottom of some sections.
Since discussions were being held about resurfacing the town offices parking lot, address drainage problems and reconfiguring the chamber of commercial information booth area, staff thought it would be efficacious to fold the sewer work into that project, since it would involve tearing up the roadway. Potentially, some of the sewer money could be used for some of the other work – such as sidewalks – Duncanson said, though he acknowledged it would be a “real stretch” to use sewer funds to resurface the town offices parking lot.
And just like the Route 137 sewer work, it would mean less disruption to do both projects at the same time.
But selectmen weren't happy with the vagueness of the project and asked staff to return with more specifics.
The board endorsed the $31 million sewer article, which will require a two-thirds majority vote of town meeting (for borrowing) and must also be approved at the ballot box. It makes sense to authorize the funding now, said Selectman Seth Taylor, even if the work is a few years away, because having the funding commitment will position the town to qualify for grants and no- or low-interest loans.
“It gives us flexibility and allows us to be adroit in managing what we have already accepted what will be the complete sewering of Chatham way down the road,” he said.