As Mashpee explores solutions to the town’s growing wastewater problem, a layer of murkiness surrounds a proposal to pump wastewater to Joint Base Cape Cod as two entities bid for control of treatment facilities at the base.
A letter signed by Town Manager Rodney Collins on Tuesday states the town’s interest in talking with Converge Partners, LLC, one of those entities, should the Department of Defense grant them control of the facilities rather than the Town of Barnstable, the other interested party.
Selectmen unanimously approved the letter to the New York-based investment and advisory firm on Monday night, prior to it being signed.
They said that it is not clear to them how Converge’s acquisition of the base’s treatment facilities could affect a proposal to expand upon the base’s existing facilities to treat wastewater from five Cape towns—Mashpee, Bourne, Falmouth, Sandwich, and Barnstable.
“Nobody knows anything about how the numbers work, what the timing is, what the deal would be,” said Andrew R. Gottlieb, chairman of the board of selectmen.
Should Converge obtain the Joint Base treatment facility, they would take care of infrastructure upgrades, be responsible for the operations of the plant, and would implement a fee system to towns wishing to use the plant, Mr. Collins said.
The Department of Defense posted a September 30 deadline for entities interested in taking over the plant, Mr. Gottlieb said.
Questions about the possibility of pumping Mashpee wastewater to the plant, in part, prompted selectmen to vote 3-1 to withdraw two articles from the October Town Meeting warrant. The proposals would have put more than $2 million toward building a treatment plant in a residential area of Mashpee.
A shared wastewater management study released in August details the prospect of the five towns hoping to treat varying percentages of their towns’ wastewater at the Joint Base facility.
Some people—including Selectman Thomas F. O’Hara on Monday night—have expressed hope that a wastewater treatment plant at the base could treat all of Mashpee’s water.
Others, though, have warned against placing too much faith in the Joint Base to solve all of Mashpee’s wastewater issues.
Selectman John J. Cotton said that “the base is not the silver bullet.”
Based on the August wastewater study between the five towns, he said, any use of an upgraded facility at the base would be at least eight to 10 years out.
The study estimates that the construction of a Joint Base treatment facility capable of processing the five towns’ wastewater would likely not even begin until at least 2023.
Outside of the question of who the Department of Defense will award ownership of the Joint Base treatment facility, other questions remain about the facility. How the effluent discharge of wastewater treated at the base would be disposed of, for example, remains in question. Exactly how much wastewater each town would pump to the proposed treatment plant also remains in question.
Still, the prospect of treating even some of the town’s wastewater at the base remains alluring in part because of the cost-effectiveness of the plan and because a treatment facility at the base could mean constructing fewer treatment facilities in Mashpee, meaning less of a financial impact to Mashpee taxpayers.