HARWICH — The State Senate has joined the House of Representatives in passing legislation that could clear the way for a regional wastewater treatment partnership. The special legislation has now been sent to Gov. Charlie Baker for his signature.
“The towns of Dennis, Harwich and Yarmouth have worked hard to come up with an important inter-municipal partnership that will reduce excess nitrogen that is polluting the Cape’s marine environment and provide cleaner water for their residents and visitors for decades to come,” read a joint statement issued by members of the Cape Legislative Delegation.
“The leadership in the three towns have done the hard work of putting the tri-town agreement together. The commitment that the towns have demonstrated in coming together to solve the infrastructure challenge of treating wastewater is truly commendable. We were honored to do our part to accomplish the legislative piece and remain ready to help, if need be, with anything that might arise at the state level,” the statement reads.
The special legislation spells out the partnership for the three towns in establishing a tri-town wastewater treatment plant in Dennis and further defines the operational structure. The legislation establishes a seven-member governing commission made up of three members from Yarmouth and two from Dennis and Harwich with an executive director who oversees the day-to-day operation.
The House approved the legislation in August and it was anticipated the Senate would issue its approval this fall. Members of the regional subgroup representing the three towns continue to work on an operating agreement, which is expected to be presented to selectmen in December and voters in each of the communities are expected to act on a final approval in annual town meetings in May.
Selectman Donald Howell, a member of the subgroup, said the Senate vote is good news, but it does nothing to form the necessary alliance. The three boards of selectmen still have to get town meeting votes to actually forge the partnership. Howell indicated the Yarmouth board of selectmen could be a hold-up point.
It was a Herculean effort to get to this point, Howell said, adding he feels the governance part is planned out well, but yet to be seen is whether the public will be willing to give up its ability to directly have input in the process, “and they’re the ones paying for this.”
The tri-town operation is projected to save each of the communities considerably when compared to each town constructing its own treatment plant. The Governor’s signature will also provide access for the partnership to a $1 million state contribution in the environmental bond bill. Town Administrator Christopher Clark said those funds would likely be used for design and engineering work.
“DHY has been a journey and I think this is a nice milestone in that journey,” said Clark, who serves on the subgroup formulating policy. “To have the hard work of the three towns recognized with passage in the House and now with Senator Julian Cyr getting it passed in the Senate, we eagerly await the Governor’s signature and support for this effort.”