Great Pond

Great Pond in Falmouth viewed from the end of Cedar Street

Construction of a sewer system to serve the areas of Teaticket and Acapesket is projected for 2026.

“The town has put up money for design and planning is currently underway, and this is the timetable,” Water Quality Management Committee chairman Eric T. Turkington told the select board on Monday, December 21. “These two pieces both affect Great Pond, which except for Waquoit Bay, is the water body most in need of nitrogen reduction.”

While sewering will go a long way toward reducing nitrogen in Great Pond, it will not eliminate it.

“I will caution us, because 60 percent of the water that comes into this water body comes from the Coonamessett River system, sewering these two areas will get rid of a lot of the problem. It will not get rid of all of the problem,” Mr. Turkington said. “There is a lot of water coming in that isn’t coming from the neighborhood. It is coming from north of [Route] 28.”

Describing sewering as sensible, he said it is reasonable to expect the water in Great Pond will “improve a lot with this.”

New sewers must be accompanied by an upgrade to the wastewater treatment facility, which Mr. Turkington described as “the easy one.”

“We have to keep it running and we have to keep it up to date,” he said. “A failure up there would be too horrible to contemplate. I know Amy has come to you with plans for upgrading what needs to be done up there,” he said, referring to wastewater superintendent Amy Lowell.

The upgrade is likely to go before Falmouth Town Meeting in 2022.

“It is a no-brainer,” Mr. Turkington said. “You can’t have a sewer system in town and not maintain it.”

There is also the matter of sewer discharge.

“As you are well aware now, we have a permitted capacity and we have a certain flow,” Mr. Turkington said. “If we’re going to add any systems, in Teaticket, Acapesket or anywhere else, we’re going to need to find a new place for the treated effluent that is produced to be discharged.”

Potential locations for a discharge site include next to the wastewater treatment facility on Blacksmith Shop Road; at the Dorothea Allen parcel off Carriage Shop Road, and at the Augusta parcel in Teaticket. The water quality management committee is also considering an ocean outfall.

“Before not too long, we will be back before you with more detailed information and more detailed recommendations on what the pros and cons are, and what the town should be doing,” Mr. Turkington said.

The committee is also looking at Waquoit Bay.

“Waquoit Bay, not only does it have navigation problems, it has the biggest nitrogen problem of any of the estuaries we’ve talked about,” Mr. Turkington said.

Waquoit Bay is shared by Falmouth, Sandwich and Mashpee, with 48 sub-estuaries feeding into it.

“The first question is who is responsible for what, as far as nitrogen,” Mr. Turkington said. “We went ahead, the town went ahead and had a consultant, with Mashpee’s consent and Sandwich’s consent, do a study to try to allocate the nitrogen load to each different town.”

With study in hand, he said the next step is to discuss the matter with Mashpee and Sandwich to determine what each individual town’s target will be.

“It is obviously a long-term, extremely complicated project, and it is not one we are going to get to today or tomorrow, but you have to plan ahead,” Mr. Turkington said. “The first thing about planning ahead is determining how much nitrogen is our town’s responsibility to get rid of.”

Mr. Turkington also highlighted some water quality accomplishments during his report to the select board.

“West Falmouth Harbor is now the first estuary on Cape Cod that has met its [total maximum daily load],” he said.

Total maximum daily load is the maximum amount of nitrogen that can enter a body of water while still meeting water quality standards. Falmouth met the TMDL in West Falmouth Harbor without sewering.

“It wasn’t by accident here,” Mr. Turkington said, noting the town upgraded its wastewater treatment plan and partnered with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to install 30 innovative alternative septic systems around the perimeter of West Falmouth Harbor.

He also noted the now-complete Little Pond sewer service area, which will remove 88 percent of nitrogen the town needs to remove from the pond. The nitrogen levels in the pond are being monitored by the US Geological Survey, the Marine Biological Laboratory and the UMass Dartmouth School of Marine Science and Technology.

“As soon as there are results in Little Pond, we’re going to know exactly how successful this project has been,” Mr. Turkington said.

The Bournes Pond inlet widening, which will expand the inlet from 15 to 90 feet wide, is on on schedule for 2021. It has received its design, state and federal permits. All that remains is approval by the Falmouth Conservation Commission.

Inlet widening, the installation of a permeable reactive barrier near Great Pond, the Mill Pond restoration project and the Eel River shellfish propagation program are necessary because of the high cost of sewers.

“You’re not going to sewer every house on Cape Cod,” Mr. Turkington said. “It just can’t be done.”

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