Eider Ducks In The Canal

A flock of eider ducks floats in the Cape Cod Canal near the Massachusetts Maritime Academy on Taylor’s Point.

Wareham officials are not ruling out the possibility of running a sewage pipe from the town’s wastewater treatment facility to Massachusetts Maritime Academy for discharge at the academy site into the Cape Cod Canal.

That was the view expressed by Wareham Sewer Commissioner James R. Giberti during a remote meeting of the Bourne sewer commissioners last month. Mr. Giberti admitted installation of a discharge access point at Mass Maritime would prove difficult but declined to dismiss the idea entirely.

“I wouldn’t say it’s off the table, but it’s not the front burner that it was,” he said.

The meeting was held to discuss infrastructure improvements Wareham needs to make to its wastewater plant. The planned upgrades are needed to protect the Agawam River from the flow of raw sewage, the Wareham commissioners said.

The infrastructure upgrades to the wastewater plant are estimated to cost $9 million, and Bourne’s share of that cost would come to $1.6 million. Part of the infrastructure cost, Wareham commissioner Sandra L. Slavin said, includes lining a retention basin to prevent seepage into groundwater.

“What we’ve been finding out is in heavy rain conditions, we’re exceeding the capacity of the output of the plant, so it’s been falling into an unlined basin, which is not good for the aquifer and the river,” Ms. Slavin said.

For several years, talk of expanding Wareham’s wastewater plant has included discussion of constructing a new outfall pipe that would discharge directly into the Cape Cod Canal. Mass Maritime has been pinpointed as the location for the discharge pipe.

Mr. Giberti said running a pipe from Wareham to Mass Maritime poses a number of logistical problems, not the least of which is the work being done on Cranberry Highway.

In July 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation began reconstruction of nearly two miles of Cranberry Highway in East Wareham.

In an effort to improve safety on the busy road, the project will revamp the highway, add medians, upgrade traffic signals and replace a drainage system in an attempt to reduce flooding. The project is expected to be completed by summer 2023.

Mr. Giberti said that while part of the MassDOT project involves putting in a new drainage system, Wareham cannot add installation of the outfall pipe. Wareham, he said, would have to figure out another way to access the canal or wait until the MassDOT project is finished.

“So, I think, as I said, that’s going to be on a back burner for the moment,” he said. “I know Mass Maritime would like to see it happen yesterday. I don’t think it will.”

Bourne commissioner Judith M. Froman asked why Mass Maritime would like to see an outfall pipe into the canal. Mr. Giberti said because the academy would like to discontinue use of its own wastewater treatment plant.

The MMA facility treats wastewater flow from the academy’s dorms, classrooms, laboratories, laundry, gymnasium and kitchen. The treatment plant already has an outfall pipe that discharges treated wastewater directly into the canal but the academy has other ideas, Mr. Giberti said.

“They don’t want to be treating sewage,” he said. “They don’t want to deal with it. They want the space for more dorms.”

Bourne commissioner Peter J. Meier, who lives in Taylor Point—which neighbors the Mass Maritime campus—advised that Wareham explore alternatives other than discharge at MMA. Mr. Meier cautioned that residents will oppose the disruption of running a pipe through their neighborhood.

“I’m telling you this, in this neighborhood of 100 people, you’re going to have a very good amount of them that will be very open against discharging into the canal,” he said.

Mr. Giberti said he is looking into available alternatives that will serve the interests of Wareham, Buzzards Bay, Mass Maritime and South Plymouth for the long term. That might entail groundwater discharge sites, he said.

“We’re looking for the groundwater discharge right now, for the immediate future, but that’s not going to cover us, or you guys, long term. I’m trying to look further out than the next 20 years because that’ll go by in a heartbeat,” he said.

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