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Mashpee Takes a Big Step in Addressing Nitrogen Pollution

By United States Geological Survey, US Department of the Interior.
Public Domain
Popponesset Bay in Mashpee

Mashpee voters approved a $54 million dollar funding request at Town Meeting Monday night to address nitrogen pollution in the Mashpee River and the Popponesset Bay.

Nearly 436 residents attended the meeting under a tent to approve the funding request in unanimous support.

Select board member Andrew Gottlieb says the plan is decades in the making, and last night's unanimous vote is a clear signal to other Cape officials trying to address wastewater pollution.

"If you put together a well thought out plan, make it affordable, make people see there's a real value, the expectation and desire is for clean water," Gottlieb said Tuesday morning.

The funding still needs approval at Mashpee's Annual Town Election on Saturday. Voting is from 7AM to 8 PM at the Quashnet Elementary School.

The $54 million will go towards the construction of a sewage treatment plant at the town's transfer station, as well a sewer collection system for about 500 homes in the area.

Funding is coming primarily from grants, state taxes, and special zero-interest loans from the state. But Gottlieb says that property taxes won't be impacted. A big portion of the funding will come from a recently created room tax that collects taxes from AirBnBs and other rentals.

Gottlieb says these sources of revenue were identified and created to help Cape towns create and fund massive wastewater projects without making locals bear the brunt of the cost.

"What this finance plan shows is, these tools work, and they shift the burden away from the property tax payers onto other sources of revenue, just as the system was set up to do," Gottlieb says.

The selectman is hopeful that the turnout is as strong at the town election on Saturday, as it was at Town Meeting on Monday, and the funding will be approved.

Sandwich, Bourne, and Provincetown also hold Town Meetings

Town Meetings were also held recently in Sandwich, Bourne and Provincetown.

Bourne residents voted to ban the town from purchasing single-use plastic water bottles. Bourne becomes the 14th town on the Cape to put a municipal bottle ban in effect.

Bourne residents also decided to petition the state to change the way its next police chief will be hired. That person would be chosen by the town, rather than the state’s civil service commission.

Sandwich voters, also on Monday, decided to end the sale of plastic bottles that contain less than a gallon of non-carbonated, unflavored drinking water.

The ban goes into effect December 31st, and comes despite criticism from a number of local business owners.

The town also approved a plan to spend $1 million on designing a sewage treatment plant, and mapping layouts for 20-thousand feet of sewer.

In Provincetown on Saturday, voters approved the creation of a new diversity, equity and inclusion department at Town Meeting Saturday.

Voters agreed to dedicate 145-thousand dollars for salary and other expenses needed to run the department.

Voters also need to approve an override to fund the department at the annual town election on Tuesday, May 11.