MASHPEE- Mashpee Commons was lauded this week for its efforts to help deal with the town’s nutrient pollution problems, by tying nearby town buildings into its wastewater treatment plant and pursuing high-end technology at the plant.
But at the Mashpee Planning Board’s meeting Wednesday evening there was also general acknowledgment that no matter how high-tech the treatment plant is, the sheer scale of the development planned for the areas around the rotary will have a negative impact on the heavily polluted Mashpee River and Popponesset Bay.
Thomas C. Cambareri, head of the Cape Cod Commission’s water resources program; Planning Board Chairman Beverly A. Kane; and Town Planner F. Thomas Fudala, who also serves as chairman of the Mashpee Sewer Commission, each praised Mashpee Commons for the company’s efforts to mitigate nutrient loading in the town’s waterways.
“But as good as Mashpee Commons’ treatment plant is and as good as they can make it in the future, the problem is still so bad we have to look at other options,” Mr. Fudala said. “Everything we are putting in the ground here is a problem.”
“What do we do then? How do we protect the river with this development coming?” Thomas F. O’Hara, a board member, asked.
Mr. Fudala said the town has to let the development proceed, knowing that it will be factored into future wastewater plans. The future of wastewater treatment in Mashpee is in flux at the moment, as the sewer commission is in the process of developing a comprehensive plan for the town, and the town cannot hold up Mashpee Commons’ while the town’s plan is developed.
Mr. Cambareri said the buildout of Mashpee Commons will likewise take place over many years so the town and Mashpee Commons should prepare to be flexible.
Mashpee Commons LP vice president Douglas S. Storrs pledged to be flexible on construction timing and to be “part of the solution.”
He said it made sense for a water supply company related to Mashpee Commons to sell out to the Mashpee Water District, and the same principles of scale apply in this situation.
“We talk about regionalism, let’s at least get localism down first,” he said.
The discussion was part of the planning board’s preliminary talks with the Cape Cod Commission and Mashpee Commons about the company’s plans to develop most of the land surrounding the rotary. Mashpee Commons owns about 315 degrees of the circle around the rotary. Hundreds of residential units have already been permitted in the Job’s and Whitings neighborhoods, near the Parish of Christ the King, and more homes and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space could potentially be built in other areas, according to Mr. Storrs.
Mr. Fudala said one future possibility will be piping the wastewater, either before or after treatment, out of the Mashpee River watershed or even completely out of the Popponesset Bay watershed.
The town is required by the federal Clean Water Act to remove 100 percent of the nutrients from septic systems in the Mashpee River, which runs just a few hundreds yards away from the Mashpee Commons treatment plant.
Mashpee Commons has picked up about 100 homes’ worth of Cape Cod Commission nitrogen “credits” for tying the town buildings off Frank E. Hicks Drive into their treatment system, Mr. Cambareri said.
But the planned developments will likely exceed those credits, so the company will be subject to the commission’s “No Net Nitrogen” policy, requiring it to tie in additional developments that are currently on septic systems, so that the end nitrogen load is not increased.
Mr. Storrs said the company may be looking to tie other developments nearby, such as the Kenneth C. Coombs and Quashnet schools, in as well. The company is planning to vastly expand the treatment plant, from 80,000 gallons per day to 180,000, he said.
Mr. Fudala said the Mashpee Commons plant may end up being an “interim solution” for the next few decades, until a better solution can be implemented.
Ms. Kane made sure Mr. Storrs would follow strict stormwater runoff guidelines, controlling and treating as much as possible on site, and Mr. Storrs pledged to do so. He said the developments will aim to cut down on free runoff wherever possible, through rain barrels used for irrigation, for example.
Commons’ Wastewater Treatment Praised, But Impacts Inevitable
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