Water is precious, and that fact was brought forward at Tuesday’s meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen. Patrick O’Neil, of Tata & Howard, the town’s engineering firm, told the board that Marion’s state water permit of 20 years expired in 2011 and has been extended until November of 2014.
At that time, the state will issue a renewal, with conditions around the amount of water the town will be able to draw from the Mattapoisett River Valley, the main source of the town’s water supply.
“This is a sustainable water issue and the state is asking how this pumping of water from the aquifer in and around the valley is affecting water flow and fisheries,” O’Neil said.
Currently, Marion has a water restriction with residents with even-numbered houses watering on certain days and odd numbered homes on another. O’Neil hinted that, in the near future, watering might only be permitted on one day a week.
“The state seeks to reduce water usage that impacts stream flows and fish population,” he said. Another alternative suggested by Selectman John Henry was looking into a desalinization effort. “We have all the water we’d ever need right here in the harbor,” said Henry, citing a recent successful desalinization effort in Dighton to help Brockton with its water woes.
The goal, according to O’Neil is to have each household of 2.6 people to consume 65 gallons of water per day.
Another issue brought out by O’Neil is that cranberry bogs and other agricultural activities have the right to divert water from the river valley to flood bogs for picking. That water is not regulated and the amount diverted is not known and the impact on the rivers, streams, and fisheries is also unknown.
A second water issue was on the agenda for the meeting, that of the possibility of offering a separate water meter to residents who use water for irrigation on their property. The goal was for residents to pay only for the water used for plantings and flowers and not be charged for sewer usage, because it was outside watering. After the presentation by Tata & Howard, the board voted to table the “second meter” issue until 2014, when news of the new water restrictions by the state will be presented.
Next up was a presentation by Fire Chief Thomas Joyce and Lieutenant Ryan Miller regarding the state of the Marion Emergency Management Service. The state recently upgraded response times for 911 medical calls from approximately 5 minutes to one minute. Because Marion relies on individuals coming from Wareham and other communities, the response time fell below state standards.
Joyce also noted that Marion needs more trained paramedics and education to move EMTs up the ladder to become paramedics.
Chief Joyce offered several options, including giving up the town EMS service and putting it out to bid to a commercial operation. Selectman Henry said that several towns are also grappling with the new state requirements and that the town had to tackle the issue, either through a special town meeting or the fall town meeting on October 28. Monies are needed to bring the department up to state standards. Information on the amounts were not available at press time.
In other business, the board denied water abatements to residents at 11 Pitcher Street, 382 Point Road, 16 Wilson Road, 929 Point Road, and 221A Wareham Street.
The board approved street closures for the Town Block Party to take place on August 24, with a rain date of August 25 and for the First Congregational Church summer fair on July 27.
By Joan Hartnett-Barry