While it may have seemed that the town’s wastewater efforts had stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic, the town’s health director said that was not the case.
Work is underway to plan sewer pipe layouts and other infrastructure to better deal with the town’s wastewater.
Contracts were signed with Wright-Pierce, an environmental engineering firm, as construction plans are taking shape.
The Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan will focus on both wastewater, such as sewage and road runoff; and water resources, for drinking and recreational use, Sandwich Health Director David B. Mason said.
One of the initial, larger problems the town is facing is nutrient-dense ponds producing harmful algae blooms that impact the watershed and indicate poor water quality within the ponds.
“We put together a strategy to keep us moving in a direction to address the wastewater nutrient issue in town,” Mr. Mason said. “We still needed to make adequate progress on our plans and we are still moving forward with options.”
As part of the strategy, Mr. Mason said, Wright-Pierce designed a layout for the sewer lines, identified problem areas in town that might interfere with utilities and roadways, and developed plans to install lift stations to move wastewater through the town.
The first sewer lines will be hooked up to the schools.
“We hope to initiate construction for sewer lines to benefit the schools in five years,” Mr. Mason said.
To generate funds to pay for wastewater projects, taxpayers were asked to vote on a 2 percent property tax surcharge that is being invested into a special water infrastructure fund, better known as WIIF. Once the systems are in place, the town could make up about 25 percent of its construction costs by charging commercial—and eventually residential—customers to hook into the sewer lines.
At the Annual Town Meeting in May, townspeople approved the first allocation from WIIF. The allocation, about $1 million, is paying for this first phase of the project—designing wastewater collection, transport and disposal systems—which the town is working on now.
The ambitious wastewater plan has been informally underway since the 1990s and is part of the town’s $80 million, 25-year plan to clean up Sandwich’s ponds and properly dispose of its wastewater, town manager George H. (Bud) Dunham has said.
“This project started back in the late 1990s with a program to identify what was going on in our estuaries and then we received grant money for a comprehensive water resource management plan, which led to coordinating with towns to work to solve nutrient loading in watersheds since we all share the same watershed,” Mr. Mason said.
Mr. Mason said that initially, the town was considering the construction of a $30 million wastewater treatment plant that would be built near the back of the industrial park off Jan Sebastian Drive.
“We were going in a direction for the town to have its own plant but all of a sudden, we were approached by the military about their plant on Joint Base Cape Cod,” Mr. Mason said. “They don’t want to operate it anymore and are looking for parties to take it over.”
Mr. Mason said Sandwich was working with other Upper Cape towns that were interested in potentially obtaining the plant and using the location as a regional wastewater treatment plant but Converge Partners, LLC expressed interest in operating the plant.
“We are working with Converge to potentially be a customer,” Mr. Mason said. “We are hoping to see that happen by the end of the calendar year.”