A Common Sense Approach to Lagoons

To the Editor:

A common sense approach to the Marion sewage lagoons is needed.

Selectman John Henry got it right when he said that it is a waste of time arguing whether the lagoons are leaking or not. The most sensible approach is to have CDM work on determining how to line the lagoons and what it will cost. We agree.

The facts are simple. The lagoons were constructed in 1971 and are not lined. These lagoons originally served as the sole treatment of wastewater prior to the construction of the wastewater treatment facility but function now only to capture peak flows that the wastewater treatment facility cannot handle and are an outdated technology. The Town itself has been aware of, and concerned about, the possibility of the lagoons leaking for more than a decade. The Horsley Witten study, an initiative that our Board of Selectmen approved in January 2010 because of this concern, found high levels of nitrogen in the groundwater underneath the lagoons.

The lagoons are leaking. Since groundwater from beneath the lagoons flows underground to the bay, the polluted groundwater is traveling to and polluting Marion’s waterways. We don’t need CDM or any other engineering firm to conduct additional studies in order to tell us the exact amounts these unlined lagoons are leaking at specific times and where precisely the pollution is going. We could certainly spend many thousands of taxpayer dollars to determine just how much, how quickly and the exact paths that the pollution is taking as it makes its way through the groundwater table to Sippican Harbor, Aucoot Cove and Marion’s other waterways. But to what end? Such additional details are both unnecessary and irrelevant to the issue at hand, and will serve to waste both precious time and resources because they ignore what has already been proven, as well as the inevitable. The lagoons are outdated, ineffective holding tanks and are leaking significant amounts of nitrogen into the groundwater and, therefore, must be fixed.

Resources, instead, should be focused on the best way to line the leaking lagoons. This is common sense. We have acres of raw sewage sitting in giant holes in the ground at our wastewater treatment plant. We don’t need to invest in more science. We need to invest in a solution.

Furthermore, from a planning and cost efficiency perspective, now is the prudent and logical time for the Town to incorporate an engineering solution to the outdated, leaking lagoons as it embarks on an $18 million water/sewer upgrade plan. It is not sensible to spend millions of dollars to repair the water/sewer infrastructure only to send wastewater up to the lagoons so that it can leak through the bottom and pollute groundwater again. The Town should fix the leaky lagoons at the same time the Town is fixing the rest of its leaky pipes.

Last month we sent a letter, together with several other Marion property owners, to the United States Environmental Protection Agency urging them to direct the Town to fix the lagoon system. As Marion taxpayers, we recognize that we will share the financial obligation to implement a solution to the lagoons. We have a duty to our children and our grandchildren to take action now to protect Marion’s water resources. The Town has known of the potential leaking lagoons for more than a decade and ignoring the lagoons is no longer tolerable. While we support an investment to fix the lagoons, we cannot in good conscience support wasteful town spending in further study of an already well-documented and obvious problem.

Curiously, in the recent press on this issue, CDM has not denied that the lagoons are leaking. Nor did it deny the lagoons were leaking on November 15, 2011, in its public meeting with the Board of Selectmen about the Horsley Witten results. Instead, CDM attempts to cloud the real issue by focusing on the complexity of the matter. We fail to see the complexity. There are 20 acres of raw sewage sitting in giant holes at the wastewater treatment facility and the Town already has a study by a well-respected environmental engineering firm that clearly demonstrates that these unlined lagoons are leaking and the water under the lagoons is polluted. CDM has a financial interest in doing more studies on behalf of the Town. Unfortunately, conducting complex and costly investigations in order to provide the Town with additional data on this issue will not change the crucial fact that the lagoons are leaking and need to be repaired.

The Board of Selectmen should follow Henry’s lead and direct CDM to determine the most efficient way to line the lagoons. Please join us and contact the Board of Selectmen to urge them not to waste time and money on more studies – invest instead in the solution and fix the lagoons.

Laura Ryan Shachoy

Michael Moore



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