Engineers Kent Nichols and Rebecca Mongada appeared on behalf of consulting firm Weston & Sampson at the Marion Select Board’s special meeting on Monday night at the Music Hall for a public hearing on the town’s Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP.)
While regionalizing sewer with the Town of Wareham lingers as an option, Weston and Sampson recommended a 20-year plan of internal upgrades featuring but not limited to connecting three key areas of Marion to town sewer.
Of Marion’s 11 unsewered areas, Weston & Sampson recommends phasing in sewer to six of those areas over time to spread out the financial impact. The areas recommended against connecting to town sewer total between 30 and 50 residences, according to Nichols.
Nichols noted that since the Marion Board of Health’s recent bylaw requiring any changed septic system to include denitrification technology, the state has proposed statewide identification of “nitrogen-sensitive” areas that would require “even remedial” systems to upgrade to include denitrification.
“That means a lot of cash investment for people who feel like their own septic system probably works really well,” Nichols said. “And it won’t be up to you – the period that was stated was five years. Those ‘regs’ are still in flux a little bit, and the planning continues for that. And Marion was not in the first wave, the first wave addressed Cape Cod. But certainly, the nitrogen-sensitive areas around Buzzards Bay were a close second in that process, and we have taken those potential regulations into account while as we’ve thought about this.
“We do hold back the possibility of doing some localized treatment in the event that we need to look further at options beyond just connecting everybody to the sewer system.”
Grouping the potential sewer-expansion areas into three main sections, Nichols identified River Road and Wareham Road (Route 6) as a relatively small area, the next-bigger being the Aucoot Creek/Lower Mill Street area just south of the Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the largest area containing Lower Sippican Neck, Wings Cove and Piney Point with Planting Island.
“If we did all of those at once with a single sewer project, that would cost about $24,000, 000,” said Nichols, who displayed a chart breaking down cost for each area under consideration. “These costs are all over the place.”
Because of their locations, the cost variety is great. The River and Wareham Roads area would cost $28,000 per unit connection, but along Lower Sippican Neck, the per-home connection cost would spike to $120,000. Thus, Nichols explained, Weston and Sampson’s effort to package areas to make sewer costs more affordable.
“What we’re basically doing is, by ‘sewering’ these unsewered areas that are along the coastline, we’re going to take a lot of nitrogen out of the surrounding waters,” said Nichols. “We’re going to treat it to the highest degree possible by bringing it to the (Water Pollution Control Facility.)”
Nichols said Marion’s WPCF rates are among the best regionally in treating for nitrogen.
In a comparison of alternatives for the WPCF, Weston and Sampson identified two levels of process improvements costing $11,000,000 or $13,000,000, groundwater discharge or outfall relocation to a salt marsh at $16,000,000, and finally a $76,000,000 regionalization with Wareham.
Capital improvements recommended for the WPCF include process at $4,500,000, ancillary at $6,300,000 and biosolids at $2,000,000.
Supplemental groundwater discharge is recommended as a backup plan in the event Marion cannot achieve an increase in its permitted capacity.
In summarizing recommended capital improvements to Marion’s CWMP, the existing collection system would cost $4,500,000, existing pump stations would cost $12,600,000, sewer extensions $24,000,000 and the WPCF and treatment system $13,000,000, totaling $54,000,000.
“I would just warn you that if we implement this plan over a 20-year period, your ultimate total cost will be a little higher than that,” said Nichols. “The big picture on implementing the plan is pretty much straightforward. It’s a 20-year plan. We envision, if you’re going to do it right and spread the costs out enough, probably you’re going to spend most of that 20 years spreading out those sewer extensions and getting people connected to the system.”
The recently completed lining of Lagoon 1, said Nichols, provides the town an option to store biosolids while prioritizing more immediate needs.
The next step for the town is finalizing discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection on Marion’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
Crediting the work that Department of Public Works Director Becky Tilden has done, Nichols told the meeting that the town was very successful in procuring Coastal Zone Management grants.
“As such, the Creek Road improvements have been designed,” said Nichols, noting that the design has sat for a couple of years. “We did make the priority list for the state revolving-fund program this past year, which was a positive factor, but that’s not a lot of funding so the town right now is awaiting word from the third or fourth round of reviews being done on a federal FEMA grant, the Hazard Mitigation Grant program.”
A few weeks ago, Nichols interacted with Nathaniel Munafo, who manages Marion’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, and reported encouraging notes.
“And that could result in as much as a 90% grant for a $3,000,000 construction project, so a lot of work by the town, DPW and the Sewer Department has been done to try to continue the chase funds for that,” he said.
Pump-station upgrades are a key piece to the overall plan.
“We do recommend … and have been moving forward on evaluating all the sewer force-mains,” said Nichols. “Each pump station pumps through a pressurized line to get the flow from the pump station to the gravity sewer system in different locations. In Marion’s case, virtually all of those stations, that is a single, pressurized line. And recent events in different communities have shown that the use of single force-mains becomes more and more risky, and some of the pipe conditions have been very notable.
“Some of you may be aware of a project in Plymouth a couple years back when their one pump station force-main that went to their treatment plant broke, and the town, I think, was in it for over $50,000,000 to $60,000,000 worth of emergency repair costs.”
Marion, said Nichols, is trying to stay ahead of such risk to the tune of $2,000,000 budgeted. The town’s Front Street force-main, he said, is part of the treatment plant cost.
In tracking infiltration and inflow (I/I), Nichols said that the 2017-20 rate of 550,000 gallons per day has dropped in its fifth year to a 515,000 average. In the dry, summer months, Marion generated under 300,000 gallons per day.
When the floor was opened to public comment, former Select Board member John Waterman requested a user-friendly summary of the report accessible at marionma.gov. Nichols said Select Board member Norm Hills has crafted an executive summary; Waterman clarified his request for printed copies for interested residents.
At Waterman’s request, Nichols noted that the town has negotiated terms with the developers of residential projects near the Wareham line to mitigate Marion’s I/I expenses relative to those sites.
Also at Waterman’s request, Nichols explained that “SBR” stands for “sequencing batch reactor” and that the sludge removed from Lagoon 1 was actually biomass used in the process of breaking down sewage.
Waterman pointed out that the daily inspections conducted on the town’s pumping stations by Munafo’s staff are a safety hazard to the workers and commended them for their effort. Nichols said that safety matters are addressed in the finer details of the proposed CWMP.
The Select Board voted to close the public hearing and adjourn the meeting.
Marion Select Board
By Mick Colageo