ORLEANS — The conservation commission is ready to approve an alum treatment for impaired Uncle Harvey’s Pond. The board closed public comment Feb. 16 and scheduled a vote on an order of conditions for March 2.
The treatment, recommended in a study by the UMass Dartmouth Coastal Systems Group that was seconded by the town’s marine and freshwater quality committee, would reduce available phosphorus in the pond and thereby the growth of poisonous cyanobacteria blooms.
Thirteen of the 15 owners of the privately held water body, including the town, have given their permission for the work, and siltation curtains will be installed to keep the application from the other two sections of the pond.
The town’s consultants have been hoping to apply a treatment in early spring, which may mesh with the timing of the decision. There will be an appeal period following the formal approval in March, after which the town would advertise the project.
Although consultants Matthew Creighton of BSC Group, Inc,, and Scott Fisher of SWCA Environmental Consultants had provided responses to many points raised by commissioners at an earlier meeting, chair Ginny Farber and others had more this week. “I apologize,” she said. “Generally, the commission likes to get all the questions out in the first hearing. I’m finding the learning curve is very steep on this. The more I learn, the more questions I have.”
Perhaps that was not surprising given that this would be the first alum application in Orleans, although it has been used in nearby Brewster and Harwich as well as other Cape communities.
Farber sought more specifics about the project as well as guarantees, among them a promise that anchors for the curtain would not drag along the bottom in a high wind and that there would be a response plan if the curtain were to fail. Among colleague Judith Bruce’s concerns were tying removal of the curtain after treatment to pre- and post-aluminum levels rather than an arbitrary period of one or two weeks.
Bruce said she’s “still not satisfied the information provided on the alternative of dredging is adequate. There’s no doubt or question in my mind that dredging is more expensive; how expensive depends on the data gathered, and I don’t think that has been done. There’s a great interest in this town in dredging. The town I think deserves to have a really close look at just what those costs would be.”
One of the pond owners objecting to the alum treatment, Lou Morongell, wrote to the commission that while “some of my neighbors are comfortable with applying large volumes of chemicals to our ponds, I believe we need to move away from our excess use of chemicals… I encourage Orleans to work with other towns on the Cape to explore non-traditional solutions to restore our ponds.” Regarding the siltation curtain, he wrote that he would be “quite naive to think that use of alum is going to sit and stay like a trained dog.”
The town’s consultants answered the new round of questions at the meeting and will provide a written record of responses. Conservation Administrator John Jannell will draft findings and conditions for circulation before the March 2 meeting.