Town Provides 'Interactive' Session On Sewer Connections

By: William F. Galvin

Sewer construction in Chatham.  FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — Approximately 40 people attended the informational community meeting last week put on by town officials and CDM Smith, Inc, the town's consulting engineers, to update residents on the steps necessary to connect to sewers in East Harwich.

Town Administrator Christopher Clark called the session an “interactive” one in which town officials would explain the necessary steps that must be taken and provide the opportunity for residents to ask questions and seek clarification of the process. “This is more about the nuts and bolts,” Clark told the group.

Come spring, the town is planning to go out to bid on a contract to place sewer pipes in the streets of the south section of East Harwich. There has been a lot of confusion on the time table, what residents are obligated to do, who they have to hire and when to comply with the town-mandated connection.

“This is about making the environment safe for each generation,” Clark said of the need to address wastewater issues facing the community. “Nitrogen is a big issue in this community.”

There is a need, he said, to reduce nitrogen levels in the various watersheds in town by as much as 100 percent in the Wychmere Harbor watershed down to 58 percent in the Herring River. The number is 65 percent in the Pleasant Bay watershed, he said.

Town's comprehensive wastewater management plan calls for eight phases that will be implemented over a 40-year period. Phase two involves 650 properties that will be sewered in East Harwich and the connection that will be made with Chatham to deliver up to 300,000 gallons per day to its treatment plant.

Town meeting and debt exclusion votes have provided funding for this phase. It will have a $150 tax impact on a $350,000 home which will grow to a $400-a-year tax obligation as the plan proceeds.

But Clark said the regional approach with Chatham has placed the town first on the list of the State Revolving Funds that will provide a 2 percent loan, with a strong possibility it could go to zero percent. The loan could also be forgiven, he said.

The town will be ready to advertise construction bids in the spring of 2019 and construction will start immediately. The construction is anticipated to be completed by 2021 and the flow to Chatham will begin in that year.

Clark emphasized residents should begin planning for the lateral location pipe that will connect their homes to the sewer line in the street. This is a property owner requirement, he said. He told residents to be on the lookout for a complete sewer service postcard they can expect in the spring of 2019. Once the contractor is hired it will be necessary to begin discussion with an engineer about making the lateral location pipe line up with septic connections from the house to the stub located in the line in the street.

There were a number of questions about the need for an engineer or whether a sanitary installer could do the work. Clark said Harwich is functioning under Chatham regulations, which require an engineer certification for the line plan. It was pointed out a sanitary installer or even the homeowner can define the route such a line will take from the exterior of the house to the street and where the stub in the town sewer is located. But an engineer certification is necessary for the lateral location pipe positioning.

Clark said the town is working with Chatham to see if their regulations could be changed to allow just the sanitary installer to perform the task. But Selectman Larry Ballantine said it will require a town meeting vote in Chatham.

Selectman Donald Howell made it clear the town is not going to contract with an engineer for property owners. “You talk to the contractor you want to hire,” Howell said.

Questions were raised about the need for Dig Safe to identify where other utilities are located on properties and when they should be called in. Michael Guidice of CDM Smith said their engineers will use Dig Safe during the installation of the sewer pipes in the town right-of-way. Dig Safe should also be brought in when the sanitary installer is about to begin the installation of the lateral location pipe on individual properties, Guidice said.

One woman said she and neighbors were contacted by one engineering company offering discounts based on the number of neighbors they sign up. But they were saying the engineering work has to be done by April and payment made in 90 days. She said it looks like the town is supporting them because they held meetings in the community center.

Clark said the firm is not associated with the town and there is no 90-day time line in place to pay for the service. But Guidice did say once the sewer line card goes out it would be good to know early in the process where the individual stub for the sewer line will be located for the property. As for the actual hook up, property owners will get a notice from the board of health which will provide a year to hook up to the system.

Health Department Director Meggan Eldredge and Water Department Superintendent Dan Pelletier explained how residents can access as-built, septic plans and water system ties on individual properties to help provide locations of those utilities. There is a location on the water department website that allows the property owners to access their individual information.

“It will help you identify the least impact as you tie to the street,” Pelletier said.

There was a lot of discussion about sewer depth in the street, estimated to be between eight and 10 feet to allow gravity flow from homes. There will be the need for a grinder pump in a few locations. Guidice said all elevations will be defined on design plans when the town goes out to bid in the spring. Pipes coming into the sewer system will require a 2 percent minimum slope.

There were also questions about the number of bedrooms in a home and whether that number could be increased and the impact on the gallonage flow capacity in the agreement with Chatham. There was also discussion about the use of a second metering system for water used for irrigation purposes. Such a meter would allow cost reductions for water not being processed in the treatment plant.