Mashpee River

A photograph taken earlier this month shows the environmental degradation of the Mashpee River.

For too many years, Mashpee mostly has talked the talk.

In the past two weeks, the town began walking the walk.

On June 15, Town Meeting approved the expenditure of $2.48 million for the design of a wastewater treatment plant and sewer system.

This Tuesday, June 23, voters approved the debt exclusion necessary to fund that design.

The votes were crucial steps in making the first phase of the town’s nitrogen management plan a reality.

As Andrew R. Gottlieb, chairman of the board of selectmen, said following Town Meeting, “People wanted to do the right thing environmentally.”

Lots of words have been spoken, and lots of words have been written (many of them in the Mashpee Enterprise) about how the town pioneered an innovative nitrogen management plan—and how that plan proceeded to sit on the shelf for years as water quality in the town’s estuaries and ponds, already bad, continued to get even worse.

As evidence, you only have to see—and smell—the current state of the Mashpee River, part of the watershed that the treatment plant and sewer system is designed to help.

We are not going to rehash the unfortunate history of the delay or rake over the coals the decisions that stymied action on the plan for far too long.

But Mr. Gottlieb has pointed out that the town’s residents have shown a greater willingness than the town’s political leaders to move ahead on this crucial issue confronting Mashpee. They finally got a chance to act on it.

As for the residents in the Asher’s Path neighborhood who are battling the planned placement of the sewer treatment plant in their area—and who nearly kept the plant design proposal from reaching its needed two-thirds majority vote at Town Meeting—who can blame them? All things being equal, would you want a sewer treatment plant in your neighborhood?

Engineers and town officials can go on all day and all night about how the plant, and the smell of treatment processes, won’t even be noticed given its distance from residences in the area. They can bring up how existing treatment plants in New Seabury have coexisted without any problems with that area’s affluent residents. While any outcome cannot be guaranteed, they’re probably right.

Despite the understandable anger and concern of people in the neighborhood, there has to be a plant, and it has to go somewhere, and engineers have deemed that location to be the best.

At the end of the day, this may well not prove a sacrifice for the people in the Asher’s Path neighborhood. But even if and when sacrifices end up being made—by Mashpee taxpayers as a whole, if not necessarily the Asher’s Path taxpayers in particular—those sacrifices will benefit everyone in the town. This is far too important an issue to be left sitting on the shelf.

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