Harwich Weighs Revisions To Wastewater Management Plan

By: William F. Galvin

Sewer pipes. FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — The town’s comprehensive wastewater management plan will be five years old in a couple of weeks, and during that time the road map for addressing nitrogen pollution in surrounding marine waters has taken a few detours.

Among them was the higher-than-expected cost of sewering sections of East Harwich. The opportunity to move away from building a town treatment plant at the former landfill site and joining a three-town treatment facility in Dennis also impacted the planning process.

The CWMP has always been identified as an adaptive plan containing eight phases and a projected 40-year implementation schedule. Now is an opportune time to “dive into the CWMP,” Town Administrator Joseph Powers told selectmen, and he is seeking direction from the board on how to focus a review.

Over the past several months there has been a lot of discussion among town officials about the logical path ahead for Harwich, said Water/Wastewater Superintendent Daniel Pelletier. Targeted revisions to the plan would include incorporating updated technical data; review of future growth for town build out; updating infrastructure construction sequences; examining alternative technologies; and updating cost models. Revisions to the plan will require approval from regulatory agencies, he added.

The targeted revisions are intended to identify what the board is looking to change, provide understanding of what is currently written, identifying what the town desires in moving forward and offering recommendations and documentation. A lot of public input will be necessary, Pelletier said.

The selectmen last week approved a $150,000 contract with GHD, Inc., a Hyannis-based engineering firm, to provide a computer-aided design model for the town’s sewering projects. Selectmen say the design will project costs and help save money.

Nearly a decade ago there were efforts to develop new zoning in East Harwich with a focus on commercial and residential growth, Selectman Donald Howell said, but it never made it to town meeting. But zoning can have an impact on wastewater management, he suggested. The drinking water resource protection district in East Harwich has been holding back growth in that area, he said, adding that addressing growth through zoning can be a means of reducing wastewater.

“Build, build, build, what does that do to what we have to do to remediate?” Howell said. “Chasing growth is a whole different sewer system than remediation.”

Powers said the timing is right to review the CWMP because it coincides with both the hiring of a planner and director of community development and the upcoming revision of the town’s local comprehensive plan, which should be updated every10 years.

As the CWMP and local comprehensive plan are examined there are other decisions that must be made that have impacts on the community, Selectman Ed McManus said. One of the biggest considerations is providing housing for working people in the town, he said. History has shown restricting building to one-acre lots drives the price of real estate up substantially and people living on wages in the seasonal economy can’t afford that kind of housing. Limiting wastewater attenuation by limiting development makes it difficult to provide housing, creating a difficult balancing act, McManus cautioned.

Resident Clara McLardy said there are intrinsic ecological limits which must be respected. The economy is a subset of the environment on Cape Cod and there may not always be an expanded economy for tourism, she said.

Sandy McLardy said he liked the idea of addressing the big picture of wastewater through zoning.

Chairman Larry Ballantine said the idea is to look at new tactics and revisions to the CWMP to meet the 208 Water Quality Plan for Cape Cod. Selectmen will continue to focus on wastewater issues weekly as they shape plans for wastewater needs heading into the annual town meeting in May.