Committee favors a permanent relief plan in Wellfleet

Porta-potties are not the answer at Wellfleet's Baker's Field
A portable toilet on its side, presumably blown over by the wind. Photo by Lezli Rowell.

At the 2012 Annual Town Meeting, Wellfleet voters turned down a request from the Comprehensive Wastewater Planning Committee to build two restrooms: one seasonal at Mayo Beach, and one year-round for Bakers Field. We heard your reasons – cost of the project especially with other public works on the warrant, and the process. These legitimate concerns have been better vetted by an ad-hoc committee (with members of the Board of Health, Wastewater, Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Building Needs Committee and Recreation Committee). We bring forward an article scaled down to just the one year-round bathroom, with design and engineering services before construction of the building and composting toilets. Please support this revised project with your vote!

Some concerns raised last year were unfounded, such as the suggestion that building restrooms would result in pollution. To the contrary, the purpose of sanitary facilities is to prevent pollution. We embraced composting toilets to eliminate the need for expensive denitrification, avoiding typical leach field discharge in this highly sensitive area. The nutrient pollution of standard plumbing and septic isn’t a problem with this proposal. The many visitors to the Bakers Field area are better served with proper restrooms, avoiding the pollution associated with “direct discharge” (so to speak) by swimmers at Mayo and recreationalists at Bakers seeking relief in the creek.

The worst water quality data point from samples collected by the Wastewater Planning Committee are concentrated where the Mayo Creek empties into the harbor; we believe a multi-pronged effort to mitigate nitrogen loading includes adequate public bathrooms where the public will need them. While we have responded to Town Meeting’s spending reluctance with just one restroom at Bakers Field for now, we hope this project will demonstrate the value of composting toilets for future needs – a Mayo Beach bath house, the Marina, and at our ocean and pond beaches, as upgrades are needed. There are many other components to our Wastewater Management planning intended to avoid conventional sewering, and this is a no-brainer first step.

We have selected Bakers Field as a pilot location for composting toilets specifically because it supports many users:

  • Year-round Playground and Skate-Park enjoyed by all ages, toddlers to grandparents
  • 3-season Tennis Courts, Baseball and Softball Fields, Soccer Fields for youth and adult programs
  • Summer Recreation Camp program and Tent Events -- theater, arts, music
  • Host location for many community events.

Bakers Field area is a favorite destination for residents and visitors alike, not just for the use of these features, but also:

  • Adjacent seasonal basketball courts enjoyed by all ages, host to tournaments
  • Mayo Beach is only FREE beach on the Lower Cape – no sticker required – enjoyed by locals, visitors and day-trippers
  • Mayo Beach is also a working waterfront – valuable aquaculture providing jobs and significant economic benefit.

All these people have to go to the bathroom once in a while! We should offer clean and sanitary restrooms to protect our prized recreation areas and natural resources. Composting toilets meet these goals, providing facility in a highly used location, does not contribute nutrient loading, and for much less of an investment than a Title 5 design.

Port-a-johns are usually temporary, great for big events or construction sites, but not appropriate wastewater management or permanent public solution for the jewel of the Wellfleet waterfront – not to mention they blow over in high winds! Is there really anyone who wants to go to the bathroom in one of these after it has tipped over? No wonder the kids end up peeing in Mayo Creek …

See the committee's Baker's Field Bathhouse 2013 Town Meeting Presentation here.

Editor's note: The Annual Wellfleet Town Meeting will be held on Monday, April 22, 2013 at 7 p.m. at the Council on Aging. See the Town Warrant here.


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