Orleans Officials Delve Into Phase Three Sewer Planning

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Wastewater treatment , Orleans news , sewers

Crystal Lake, Pilgrim Lake and Lonnie's and Arey's ponds are in the mix for the third phase of sewer work in Orleans. 

ORLEANS – Voters at the annual town meeting in May could be asked to support funding to design the town's next phase of sewer work.

The latest phase would cover approximately 300 properties in the areas of Crystal Lake, Pilgrim Lake, Lonnie's Pond and Arey's Pond, as well as a portion of Meetinghouse Pond that was not covered in the second phase of sewering.

A timetable laid out to the wastewater management advisory committee earlier this month calls for an article seeking design money to be drafted for the annual town meeting warrant. If approved, construction could potentially start in June 2026, followed by substantial completion in May 2028.

The first phase of sewering 1,100 properties downtown has been completed, and those property owners will be notified this spring of their need to tie into the new system within one year. Funding for the second phase of sewer work in Meetinghouse Pond was secured at the annual town meeting last May.

Another 302 properties would be connected to town sewer in phase three. Those include 36 properties in the area of Crystal Lake,128 in the area of Pilgrim Lake, 56 properties near Lonnie's Pond and 24 near Arey's Pond. A new substation would be constructed in the area of Finlay Road and Route 28, an area originally considered for inclusion in phase two.

"Once all this planning started to occur, it made sense that this could be done as gravity in the future, so it was taken out of Meetinghouse Pond," said Tom Parece of AECOM, the town's wastewater consultant.

The estimated cost of phase three work is $26.2 million, with the inclusion of Lonnie's and Arey's ponds accounting for $9 million of that figure. The plan also includes an additional 26 properties near Lonnie's Pond and 32 near Arey's Pond that are outside the ponds' watersheds.

"This is an expensive sewer project," said Mike Giggey of the engineering firm Wright-Pierce, who is also a consultant for the committee. "This is going to be more expensive per lot than what we've been doing."

But members of the advisory committee on Jan. 12 questioned whether too many properties are being folded into the third phase of work. Specifically, committee member Judith Bruce said the number of properties planned for sewering in Pilgrim Lake seemed high.

Bruce distinguished between planning for nitrogen removal and planning to accommodate future growth in the project areas. The town's primary objective in sewering is to reduce nitrogen loading in the town's waterways, she noted.

"I'm not opposed, but when I look at this, I'm not sure that this is the most effective plan or outline or layout based on nitrogen removal. Because that's what we're looking for," she said. The town's residential neighborhoods, meanwhile, are currently "where we want them in size," Bruce added.

Committee member Ginny Farber agreed.

"I think we need to be very, very careful to do what we need, not what we want," she said.

Bruce advocated for wastewater planning that gives residents "the best bang for their buck." And with more wastewater projects on the Cape competing for subsidizing funds from the state, committee chair Kevin Galligan said a cost-conscious approach may prove critical.

Galligan said Cape communities work off an assumption that 25 percent of the region's short-term rental tax revenue will be put toward funding local wastewater projects. But with more projects in the pipeline than anticipated, and many being done at higher than expected costs, towns such as Orleans could be looking at smaller subsidies for their sewer work. Project costs have jumped as much as $50 million in some cases, Galligan said.

"If we go down to 10 or 5 [percent subsidy], people are not going to be happy," he said.

The phase three area as proposed would utilize 36,900 gallons of water per day, according to figures presented to the committee by AECOM. Meanwhile, George Meservey, the town's director of planning and community development, estimated that the town could see development growth of about 5 percent over the next 20 years.

The new wastewater treatment plant, which is nearing substantial completion, can accommodate up to 80 percent of its capacity before the town needs to begin planning an extension of its collection system. But Parece said the town won't know for sure what capacity there will be for the third phase of work until the plant starts servicing the first two sewer areas.

"That's why looking at the water usage over the next two years is going to be very interesting, to see what that real number really is," he said.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has already permitted work for phase three. Additional permits are needed from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, the Cape Cod Commission and the town's conservation commission.

Giggey advised committee members to talk with other town boards and committees to get their feedback about the plans for additional sewering. Additional discussion also needs to happen about what role Brewster might have in financing the sewer work, as parts of the town fall within the Arey's Pond watershed.

Sewered Properties In Phase 3 (with pump)

Meetinghouse Pond: 29 (7)
Crystal Lake: 36 (17)
Pilgrim Lake: 128 (110)
Lonnie's Pond: 56 (44)
Additional Lonnie's Pond: 13 (13)
Arey's Pond = 24 (24)
Additional Arey's Pond: 16 (16)
Total: 302 (231)

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com