Last week, Janet Kleuver and Peter Waasdorp circulated a so-called “Plan B” to the Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan.
There is no “Plan B”!
There is only a vague reference to “emerging technologies” that are unproven, of debatable effectiveness, or very low in public acceptance [eco-toilets].
The citizens of the Town of Falmouth have been engaged in a four-year process to develop a Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan to restore the health of our coastal estuaries. We have 15 coastal ponds and they all are in trouble. Each pond is different in terms of level of pollution and options for clean-up. This is the best plan for Little Pond and a good start on Bournes Pond.
The planning process has been public, transparent, detailed, vetted, reviewed and re-reviewed. Our current plan has been approved by state agencies and Town Meeting by a 4 to 1 margin. It is a flexible plan that allows for innovation as we move forward, and at the same time cleans up the worst estuary—Little Pond—using the only means that will really work to meet the water quality standard: sewering as compactly as possible, plus fertilizer control, stormwater interception and some oyster farming.
Careful financial planning has been developed in parallel with the wastewater project planning to minimize the financial impact on both taxpayers in general and residents within the Little Pond sewer service area:
• New debt replaces old debt; no increase in the tax levy;
• 0 percent loan for construction from the state; no interest payments;
• Senior Circuit Breaker tax credits over $1,000 for residents over 65 whose existing tax bill plus betterment plus 50 percent of combined water/sewer bill exceeds 10 percent of their income.
• 20-year loan program from Barnstable County for all sewer hook-up costs.
Falmouth voters have a choice.
• Plan and guide our own future [Vote Yes] or stall for years with vague promises [Plan B].
• Implement our own choice of nitrogen abatement solutions [Vote Yes] or become subject to a state enforcement order for lack of progress.
• Carry out a plan generated and vetted by a wide public spectrum [Vote Yes] or wait three plus years for a grab bag of “emerging new technologies and tools of analysis as needed”.
• Construct a collection system that removes all the household wastewater pollutants [Vote Yes] or let the pollution continue to flow unabated into Little Pond and hope that the oyster farm will pick it up. Note: 50 percent of the Little Pond oysters died over last winter.
• Fund necessary infrastructure in an orderly, well-structured manner, using present and future “windows of opportunity” that do not raise the tax levy [Vote Yes] or raise taxes in a few years when it will be clear that the “alternatives” alone won’t clean up Little Pond.
The Water Quality Management Committee has fought long and hard over the last four years to get state regulators to acknowledge that “alternative technologies” have a role to play in wastewater control and clean-up. Total sewering is not the answer. But total alternatives are not the answer either. Each coastal pond needs a combination of approaches, worked out on a pond by pond basis.
The lots in the Little Pond watershed are so small and so numerous, the nitrogen load is so high, the pond itself is too small to farm enough oysters even if they do work, that only sewering is going to make a significant improvement.
Vote Yes on Question 1.
(Ms. Valiela is vice chair of the water quality management committee.)