Three Cape Towns Propose Teaming Up to Deal with Wastewater

Jun 6, 2018

Algae bloom in Swan Pond.
Credit Town of Dennis

Officials in Dennis, Yarmouth and Harwich have proposed creating a tri-town entity to manage wastewater. Town Meetings in each of the towns approved the idea last month, but there is still a long way to go. WCAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Dennis Board of Selectmen Chairman Paul McCormick to learn more.  

Eident: Explain in a little better detail what the partnership is hoping to do.

McCormick: Well, the partnership it is hoping to do a couple of things one to solve the wastewater problems at all towns on the Cape have, and two, to try to do it in a way that would save all of the towns some money. Many towns have looked at the fact that in the beginning of this they said, "well you know, it's our problem we're going to solve it" and they decided to go it alone. Now the thinking has changed into the fact that it's sometimes easier to solve a problem on a regional level.

So, with that the consultants that the three towns have, Harwich Dennis and Yarmouth, came up with an idea that wouldn't be a good thing to put the three towns together, that the plants would be located in the town of Dennis, that would take care of Denis's needs, it would also take care of the western part of Harwich in the eastern part of Yarmouth across the Bass River.

And so, we have been looking at a plan similar to the one known as MFM, which is Mansfield, Foxboro, and Norton, which was put together about 20 years or so ago, and we're using some of their guiding documents to take a look at how they set up a tri-town, and how they make it work.

Eident: Is this going to require the funding for new infrastructure, like a new wastewater treatment plant itself, or is this is something that Dennis has to be expanded upon?

McCormick: It's going to require the building of a new plant. This new consortium will actually have its own kind of board of governors it will be a separate entity from any of the towns if it goes through. The hope is that this new consortium will come up with the money and it'll will tax the townspeople in a way that makes it beneficial for everyone.

Eident: I've read a news reports that you're thinking here is that it could save quite a bit of money. How much do... you have any kind of projections?

McCormick: We haven't gotten down to the projections yet, so I hesitate to say what it would cost but, it's in the millions of dollars. By putting together three towns, it allows the flow going into the system to stay to a certain level, and for wastewater treatment plant to work at an effective level it has to have certain much amount of effluent to come into it daily. If each one of the towns get it separately, that flow wouldn't be quite enough. We also can design the plant so that it can be added onto.

So, as we start rolling in different parts of towns, we can add onto the plant. I think people also need to remember that this is a really a 30- to 50-year plan that's going forward, that we're going to start on the south side of particular parts of the town and then as the years roll on we can actually add onto the plant. So that's being designed for growth as well.

Eident: You're hoping this becomes a model for the rest of the Cape. Can you talk about that?

McCormick: You talk about that I think that if we can become a model for a tri town that it's going to work really well that other towns could do it.

Eident: Yeah, it seems to fall in line with what some folks at the Cape Cod Commission were saying with the federal 2 0 8 plan, that attacking this regionally since water doesn't obey town boundaries might be the most cost effective way to get a handle on such a large issue.

McCormick:  Exactly and when when you think about where the pockets of water reside on the Cape, and with the pockets of waste water come from on the Cape, people understand that if they had to redo their Title 5 there's a cost involved in that and if we can do it this way, and everyone invest into it in the long run, it's probably not going to cost the homeowners much more than they would if they when they had to replace the system that they've got.

Eident: What are the next steps for making this go from idea to reality?

McCormick: The Town Meeting approval that the three towns gave unanimously is something that allows us to continue talking we're going to have to go back to the towns again when we come up with further plans and take a look to make sure they continue to agree with our thinking that a town is the way to go.

Eident: Well, Paul McCormick, thanks so much for talking with us we appreciate it.

McCormick: You're welcome.

*This transcript has been edited lightly for grammar and clarity.