Falmouth halts wastewater decison

Selectmen vote to popstpone sending CWMP/DEIR to Secretary of Environment
DEIR has major flaws regarding discharge area, vote 4 to 1 in favor to postpone

Last night the Falmouth Board of Selectmen voted to hire a facilitator to organize an outreach process for the next three months to more fully expose the town's comprehensive wastewater management plan (CWMP) draft environmental impact statement (DEIR) to the public. Chairwomen Mary Pat Flynn introduced the motion.

Selectman Carey Murphy was the only vote in opposition

Former Selectwomen Virginia Valiela spoke about how the DEIR has major flaws regarding discharge areas that were not considered in the CWMP/DEIR that would potentially decrease the cost of the project. She stated that the DEIR is not ready to be sent to the state.

Representative Matthew Patrick read a letter (which is below) talking about the misinformation about clusters wastewater systems that is in the DEIR and urged Selectmen not to send the CWMP/DEIR at this time. Several other citizens spoke in favor of the motion.

The vote was 4 to 1 in favor. Selectman Carey Murphy was the only one to vote in opposition and he is the liason from the Selectmen to the Nutrient Loading Advisory Committee the group that guided this process. His complaint in general was that the process has been ongoing for the last eight years and Ms. Valiela and Representative Patrick were coming late to the process.

Mr. Patrick's letter to the Selectmen;

12/21/09 

Falmouth Board of Selectmen

Town Hall Square

Falmouth, MA 02540 

Dear Selectmen, 

      What type of sewer to install will be the most important financial decision we, as a town, ever make in our life time.   I emphasize the word "we" because it is a town decision but the process of making that decision is in the care of you, our Selectmen.  Our decision will have the power to change the very demographic of Falmouth that we all know and love.  The cost of a conventional sewage treatment system has the potential to double or triple taxes for the people that live in the area.  That on top of the regular 2 ½ percent increase every year (10 percent every four years) will force many people to leave town. 

      These people are our constituents and I have come to know them very well as a State Representative.  They confide in me their most secret problems to help find ways out of poverty, spousal or substance abuse.  There are constant requests for help with rent, mortgage payments or heating bills.  Many of my constituents were hanging on by an economic thread even before the recession hit.  Doubling or tripling their taxes with betterments, connection fees and user fees will force many of them to leave our town.  That is why I have worked so hard to examine alternatives to conventional sewers that will save us money in our worthy goal to clean up our salt ponds and estuaries as well as fresh water bodies. 

      I urge you to extend the process to ensure that everyone knows what is at stake.  We must fully understand all the options available to us before we commit in any technology.  Turning a massive project around may be possible but it is extremely difficult.  I believe it would be a mistake to start of the most expensive project this town will ever undertake on the wrong foot. 

      The DEIR is based on false, untested, assumptions.  For that reason, it is not ready to begin the MEPA process.  In addition, the public is still woefully unaware of the project, its physical and financial implications.  Therefore, I formally request that you postpone sending the DEIR to the Secretary until extended public hearings can be held on the DEIR.  Falmouth's Waste Water Draft DEIR is not ready to go for the following reasons: 

  1. The DEIR contains no household cost scenarios for connecting to the sewer or those not connecting to the sewer.  The cost analyses should include: sewer betterments, property tax increases, connection costs and annual or monthly user fees.
  2. The assumptions made about using cluster systems are misinformed due to the fact that engineering firms that specialize in cluster systems have never been solicited to provide plans for sewering Falmouth's peninsulas.  Below is a summary of the poor assumptions used for cluster systems in the DEIR.
    Cluster systems can meet the TMDLs and they don't require the same large pipe collection system that conventional centralized sewer systems require.
  • Cluster systems are not I/A (innovative/alternative) on site systems that replace septic tanks.
  • The capital costs of cluster systems are generally less than half the cost of a conventional centralized system.
  • Cluster systems preclude the need for an ocean outfall pipe and the permitting delays it would require.  They would also eliminate the need to study aquifer depletion.
    The DEIR asserts that, "Most people do not want to have a WWTF in their neighborhood...and the success of siting this many WWTF [cluster] is unlikely..."  I have a stamped engineer's plan for Seacoast Shores that connects 1000 homes with one cluster system for half the cost of a conventional sewer system.  It meets the TMDLs.  The town can get similar plans if it pays companies to produce them. 
  •  Cluster systems can be unobtrusively located under roads thereby minimizing offensive views and smells.  Let's not forget that our current conventional sewer system has had numerous mechanical and odor problems through the years.  Siting can be difficult but when it comes to saving half the cost of a conventional sewer system, we must try.

      Thank you for your attention to this issue.  I appreciate your selflessness and dedication to the complexity of the issues you deal with every day on behalf of our town.   

                                          Sincerely,                             

            Matthew C. Patrick 

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