Sewer and treatment plant designs for the first phase of Mashpee’s nitrogen management plan are on schedule, and a vote at Town Meeting next spring could advance the project to the construction phase.
Anastasia Rudenko, the project manager with GHD, the primary engineering consultant for the sewer project, laid out the schedule for the project for the Mashpee Board of Selectmen at their meeting on Monday, December 7.
The project, which includes a treatment facility adjacent to the town’s transfer station, five pump stations and a sewer collection system, takes aim at nitrogen pollution in the Popponesset Bay watershed.
It is the first phase of a five-phase plan that aims to reduce nitrogen loads in the town’s embayments. A reliance on septic systems that do not adequately remove nitrogen from wastewater has caused the water quality in the town’s embayments to decline for decades.
Town Meeting in June passed a $2.48 million debt exclusion to fund the design of the treatment plant and sewer system for the plan’s first phase.
In August, GHD submitted an application to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to qualify the project for 0-percent-interest loans through a program known as the state revolving fund, Ms. Rudenko said.
Next month, the state revolving fund will issue an intended use plan with projects that will receive the 0-percent-interest loans, and Mashpee’s project is expected to make the list.
“You could knock me over with a feather if we don’t get in this funding list,” Selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb said. “The schedule has been designed to make us competitive for this funding, and our project by its nature will tend to score very highly on the state’s ranking system because of the impairment we have and the fact that it’s a multi-town initiative.”
Once on the state revolving fund’s intended use plan, Mashpee Town Meeting in the spring will have to pass construction appropriations to maintain its place on the list, Ms. Rudenko said.
Should the appropriations for construction pass at Town Meeting, GHD will send 90 percent design plans to MassDEP in July for review with the aim of putting the project to bid in November, she said.
Selectmen have yet to draft articles for Town Meeting related to the construction appropriations for the wastewater project, but the project is expected to cost about $51 million.
Mr. Gottlieb said the Cape and Island Water Protection Trust is one source of money that will help reduce the cost of the project on taxpayers.
“This will bring down our cost to our resident taxpayers of implementing the program that we’re going to go to Town Meeting with in the spring,” Mr. Gottlieb said.
The trust collects a 2.75 percent surcharge from short-term rentals. All funds collected go toward water protection projects on Cape Cod or the islands. The process to qualify for the funds from the trust is linked to the state revolving fund.
“If we qualify for [the] SRF loan, that automatically makes us eligible for more money from the Cape and Islands trust fund,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “The form that money will come in is in the form of basically a grant that lowers the amount of money you would have to borrow to finance the project.”
Mr. Gottlieb is the town’s representative on the board of the Cape and Island Water Protection Trust.
“Our trust fund board will meet within 60 days of the list of eligible projects coming out from the state, so soon, by the end of March,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “It will make a commitment to the towns that are on the list that says you can count on X percent of the cost of your project in grants.”
At present, the fund has collected more than $12 million. The fall rental season has yet to be included in that total, Mr. Gottlieb said.
By the time Town Meeting comes in the spring, the town should know how much money it expects to receive through the Cape and Islands Water Protection Trust, he said.
Moreover, the fund will continue collecting money for years to come, so when Mashpee advances to the later phases of its Comprehensive Watershed Nitrogen Management Plan, money will be able to fund those wastewater projects too, Mr. Gottlieb said.
“If you’re looking two, three, four, 10 years down the road, there is going to be money and a process that allows you to qualify for that money,” he said. “So it becomes a predictable, reliable source of money and a real good tool for all of our 15 towns on the Cape.”
In coming months, the remaining design work for the Phase One treatment plant and sewer system will include field investigations on all the roads included in that phase, Ms. Rudenko said.
Some residents have already received notice that GHD engineers will be conducting the field investigations, she said.
Mr. Gottlieb noted that “every property who is going to be serviced by this system has received a notice that you will be out on the street taking measurements and heights and figuring out the design.”
“It’s important, I think, because we may hear later on that people say, ‘I didn’t know anything was going on,’” he said. “The town has mailed them notice.”