ORLEANS — Tonight (Aug. 17) at 7, the board of selectmen and the finance committee will meet for a joint work session on wastewater issues, leading off with a workshop on a multi-variable matrix of options for funding a sewer and treatment system. The boards were to hear as well what sort of assurances bond counsel would require if the town uses state land at Route 6's Exit 12 for the system's primary disposal site. Three decisions – the preliminary design of the collection, and the wastewater and septage treatment systems; and whether to solicit bids that would encompass design, construction, and operation – are on the agenda.
On Aug. 9, Selectman David Currier again recused himself as the board and committee spent an evening on wastewater matters. Town counsel and the state ethics board have advised Currier that he should not participate in discussions and votes on the initial stage of sewering as he owns two businesses (a bowling alley/restaurant and a laundromat) in the downtown area. He sat in the rear of the Nauset Room with members of the public.
That very day, Tom Parece of AECOM told the board he had joined Selectman Alan McClennen, town wastewater consultant Mike Domenica, and AECOM's Mark Owen for a “very positive” meeting with state Department of Transportation officials about the possibility of the town discharging treated wastewater at the Exit 12 cloverleaf on Route 6.
“Their big concern since day one has been allowing a municipality to use (such) property,” Parece said. “They don't want to open the door for every other municipality. They want justification that this is unique.” The state “needs to know this is definitely the preferred site of the town, the primary option going forward,” Domenica said.
Parece said tests at the Route 6 location indicate the site is capable of handling wastewater from the downtown system at the full buildout allowed as well as from Meetinghouse Pond. Responding to questions about flow through Little Namskaket and Namskaket marshes, he said there would be “a very small amount” that would “still be well under the threshold the marshes can handle” based on state studies of the marshes.
Selectmen voted 4-0 to designate Exit 12 as the primary disposal site.
Parece said the consultants are recommending that the wastewater collection system be a combination of gravity and low-pressure sewers, which is what was used to come up with the nearly-complete 25 percent design plan. He assured Selectman Mark Mathison and others that this did not lock the town into that hybrid if it chose to follow a design-build-operate path. “From design-bid-build, this is our recommendation,” he said. “This is still wide-open from the design-build-operate perspective.”
For quite some time, selectmen have been interested in the design-build-operate option via which companies would compete to design the remainder of the system, then build and operate it for an extended period. It was thought that this would allow consideration of a wider range of collection and treatment options, and that the winning bidder, knowing it had to operate the system for decades, would build a better mousetrap from the outset.
But last week, Domenica delivered a bill of particulars against the design-build-operate scenario that left some selectmen and finance committee members reeling. “I'm absolutely knocked sideways,” committee chair Lynn Bruneau said after the presentation. “I never heard you paint it black like this. I always heard you enthusiastically support a d-b-o approach.” Domenica replied that he had “promoted aggressive consideration of d-b-o. There's theory and there's reality.”
The first stumbling block mentioned by Domenica was outside legal costs and overruns in developing the d-b-o contract, a highly complicated document.
“If effluent (treated wastewater) requirements change, the contract reopens,” Domenica said. “If there are disposal site changes, it reopens.” Development of a d-b-o request for proposals would be intensive, he said, requiring plans at the 65 to 75 percent design stage to get a firm price from bidders. “Very extensive” interviews with bidders would be required, and with a possible term of three decades, “it's like getting married.”
Domenica said Orleans has had success with the traditional design-build-bid process, most recently with the new police station. Under design-build-operate, he said, “the town gives up control of the program. You're handing over the keys of the wastewater system. Based on my experience over four years in Orleans, you're not going to give up control. That's not Orleans. If you do it, there'll be a lot of angst, a lot of upset people.”
Last week's meeting also dealt with the Cape Cod Commission's requirement, in its 2011 approval of the town's comprehensive wastewater management plan, that Orleans consider the wastewater needs of neighboring Brewster and Eastham. Regarding treatment of sewage, Domenica said, “Eastham doesn't need it, nor does Brewster. Brewster has very small areas that are nitrogen-sensitive” that they can address through aquaculture. “Eastham is too sparsely populated in areas close to Orleans to generate enough revenue to pay for a pipe. They don't need the wastewater. They need the septage.”
With the Tri-Town Septage Facility closed, Lower Cape haulers have been taking the contents of septic systems to the Yarmouth-Dennis facility, Bourne, or off-Cape. The new Orleans treatment plant is being designed to handle sewage and septage. “Orleans will still have thousands of homes on septic systems that will need to be pumped,” Domenica noted.
“We're going to potentially sewer between 10 and 15 percent of the lots in Orleans,” McClennen said. “Every other, with the exception of the Community of Jesus, Skaket Corners, and Wise Living has a septic system that needs pumping on a regular basis. Right now, people are paying extra to take it to (Yarmouth). If we build the plant and treat septage, we'll save money for our residents.”
Mathison said some small-scale haulers went out of business after the Orleans plant closed and others invested in bigger trucks to make runs to Yarmouth, Bourne, and beyond. He doubted they would all come back, and also said it would be difficult to explain to town meeting that “we're cleaning up their water, and not putting an overabundance of fresh water into the Namskaket systems, and then say we're taking in waste from other towns because it's economically good.”
The expected 16,000 gallons per day of septage would be “a very small fraction of the flow,” Domenica said, and of the same quality as treated wastewater upon discharge.