A Cape Cod regional sewer authority? [Op-Ed]

...Or an idea that stinks of a power grab?

By Ron Beaty

When considering the creation of an independent, taxpayer funded, unaccountable & bureaucratic Cape Cod Regional Wastewater Authority, along with its hugely expensive large scale centralized wastewater processing facilities, Cape Codders need to be honestly informed that these are not the only choices available to them and their respective municipalities.

If creation of the Cape Cod Regional Wastewater Authority becomes a reality, then it can and should be directly & locally controlled by the municipalities of Cape Cod. The goals and mission of the regional authority should mainly be advisory and assistance oriented. The nature of its existence should be to serve and benefit the fifteen municipalities of Cape Cod, not feed the egos of some power hungry politicians or enrich the pockets of a few fat-cat bureaucrats. In addition, the primary focus of any such regional authority should be the vigorously focused and expedited advancement and implementation of locally controlled “Adaptive Wastewater Management Practices” as illustrated by the recommendations portrayed within the content of the report by the Barnstable County Peer Review Panel. An equitable system of checks and balances also would need to be put into place. This could be accomplished via creation of a duly elected citizen oversight panel with representatives from of each of the Cape's 15 towns. The citizen oversight panel must have veto powers over all major decisions undertaken by such a regional wastewater authority.

The previously mentioned "Adaptive Wastewater Management Practices" would save Cape Cod taxpayers an untold fortune in wastewater infrastructure costs, potential sewer bills and excessive new regional taxes. It would also help to provide solutions which are not only more cost effective, but which will produce environmental outcomes which are equal to or superior to those offered by large scale sewering. Once again, the alternative option that I speak of is locally controlled "Adaptive Wastewater Management Practices" also known as the "Adaptive Implementation Process."

If one wishes to learn more about "Adaptive Wastewater Management Practices" also known as "Adaptive Implementation Process" then I highly recommend taking a look at the following linked PowerPoint Presentation entitled  Don’t Debate; Adaptive implementation can help water quality professionals achieve TMDL goals.

As mentioned this wastewater treatment policy was actually the preferred option recommended by the Barnstable County Peer Review Panel when issuing their official report a few months ago: Barnstable County Peer Review Panel Report.

You do not need to read the entire document, only the final recommendations to get the general idea of what the panel advocates:


The preceding sections of this report contain numerous specific recommendations pertaining to the overall MEP modeling approach and the individual topic areas. This section contains a high level categorical summary of the Panel recommendations for a path forward. The Panel recommends that the MEP modeling approach be considered within the larger context of the overall decision support system and not be limited to just the linked watershed-embayment model. The Panel further recommends that an adaptive management framework be used for this decision support system, which integrates the watershed-embayment model. This integration should include continued monitoring, data analysis and modeling to improve scientific understanding and reduce uncertainties in the physical, chemical and biological processes in the watersheds and estuaries.

The Panel recommends that the towns proceed within this adaptive management framework to develop and implement wastewater and nutrient management plans, and make improvements along the way to reduce management uncertainties. This will ensure that TMDL implementation is not compromised due to a lack of information, and that progress will be made in the most cost effective manner while gathering new information to improve upon the scientific analysis, and the initial wastewater and nutrient management plans.

The Panel recommends that model sensitivity analyses be conducted for the components and linkages in the watershed-embayment model for each specific estuary. Sensitivity analysis is the principal evaluation tool for characterizing the most and least important sources of uncertainty in environmental models. The Panel believes that a healthy recognition of uncertainty would encourage planning bodies to pursue an adaptive science and management strategy as they move forward to understand and remediate the impacts of excessive nitrogen loadings on the estuaries and embayments.

The Panel recommends that the MEP adopt a more comprehensive approach for assessing the environmental conditions and status of eelgrass at sentinel sites. Predictions for the expansion of eelgrass into unvegetated and formerly impaired sites can be improved by incorporating additional factors that affect eelgrass growth, reproduction and dispersal, such as optical water quality, bottom substrate conditions and water depth. Emphasis should also be placed on the use of standard methods for quantitative assessments of eelgrass health and condition that incorporate and report measures of spatialand temporal variation. The Panel also recommends that SMAST and MDEP develop a coordinated effort to utilize more recent data from the MDEP eelgrass mapping program to establish restoration targets.

Ron Beaty
West Barnstable

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