A great many Special Town Meeting voters enjoyed a moment of catharsis Monday night when Article 11, a citizens’ petition opposing a wastewater outfall pipe that would flow into the Cape Cod Canal, passed on a heavily one-sided voice vote.

Catharsis is the process of releasing strong emotions to feel relief, and the need for it is part of human nature, but it’s not a remedy for all difficulties. Often after the relief passes, we return to the same problems we had before. We might feel better, but what have we solved?

As many voters rushed for the exits as soon as the town moderator declared Article 11 had passed and the applause faded, we heard one person cheer, “We saved our canal!” Another exclaimed, “F--- those idiots on the board of selectmen!”

The first person’s comment is understandable, given how effectively Article 11’s supporters have framed the outfall pipe as a dire threat to Bourne’s people and ecosystems, and how much influence they said the vote will have on the process going forward. One of the most compelling arguments we heard focused on the huge amount of untreated wastewater that would ultimately reach the canal from an outfall pipe despite the best efforts of treatment plant personnel.

(A side note: We support the petitioners’ push for innovative/alternative septic systems, though we wonder: Where will the mostly treated wastewater end up after those systems are pumped? Likely into the groundwater after passing through massive sand filters.)

The second person’s comment, however, is much harder to justify unless you believe, as we do not, that the select board and Buzzards Bay Coalition are, intentionally or otherwise, out to harm the people and environment of Bourne for the benefit of Wareham, Plymouth and Marion.

Now that the cathartic vote is done, we ought to acknowledge that the select board still has the task of crafting a comprehensive wastewater plan that addresses Bourne’s local challenges and that helps to steer the town’s role as a regional partner. To succeed in this will require continued input and feedback from Bourne residents as well as increased communication with stakeholders in neighboring towns and at the state and even federal levels.

Perhaps Monday’s vote will persuade the select board and other policymakers to withdraw from or to rethink the outfall pipe proposal, and this might turn out to be the best course of action for Bourne. However, there is also the possibility that even without Bourne’s buy-in, the other towns involved might move forward with an outfall pipe at Mass Maritime, a state-owned institution, or the state might impose its own plan if the municipalities cannot come to an agreement. Bourne should have a place in the negotiations.

There’s much work yet to be done. Here’s hoping for something more durable than a moment of relief.

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