|Rosemary Carey opened the meeting with an announcement about the June 8 Summer Evening Social at the Main Street Gallery. Scott Simenas announced the June 13 Falmouth Caucus to elect delegates to the Plymouth & Barnstable Conference to fill our vacant male Democratic State Committee seat and the September 23 Mass Dems Convention.
Zelda MacGregor then introduced guest speaker Rick Otis, President of local environmental organization Citizens for the Protection of Waquoit Bay (CPWB). Rick introduced himself and the organization’s history (available at protectwaquoitbay.org) and advocacy for the watershed and protecting the area. He expanded on his history of decades of service at the EPA and his understanding of the science behind what is going on with our estuaries and the bad water quality.
‘Paraphrased’ takeaways from Rick’s talk:
- The Waquoit Bay system is a mess and has been effectively destroyed, people are and should be upset
- Last fall the MassDEP put a proposal out that would require towns to come up with watershed plans to deal with water quality to meet Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of nitrogen that can go in the watershed
- Plans could include sewering to runoff to fertilizer control and urine diversion, etc.
- Most Cape Cod environmental groups strongly support this MassDEP proposal because many towns are either not acting or acting very slowly and these plans would force towns to look at a wider variation of solutions beyond sewering
- Sewers come at high environmental cost and high carbon footprint, also not appropriate for less dense population areas
- Many environmental activist groups were surprised by opposition of Falmouth Water Quality Management Committee (WQMC) through what appears to be misinformation and hostility.
- Rick asked FDTC to be on the lookout for proposals for cleaning up our estuaries as a committee to call on the experts like these groups to listen and understand what was going on because it might be supportive to our elected officials whom we support. He urges FDTC to talk to the local environmental organizations for more information about solutions and to be proactive.
- Rick expanded on the benefits of having MassDEP force the towns to engage in solving the water quality problems because it can help move the ball forward when you have an area like Waquoit Bay which sits on two bordering water jurisdictions (Falmouth and Mashpee).
- Falmouth has been putting sewers in slowly based on its schedule for retirement of old debt and floating new replacemt bonds for sewering. This keeps the property taxes steady, but is slow and inefficient. There are several other funding alternatives available to municipalities that the town of Falmouth should explore.
- Rick expanded on several of these funding opportunities including expanded federal earmark funds that could have been brought to our area for these purposes, why didn’t WQMC try to reach out for this funding? Town is claiming they would be bankrupt if they had to produce plans but didn’t seek out funding.
- Rick would be happy to meet with anyone for more information.
- Last comment about fish dying off in Waquoit Bay possibly as a result of algae dump–state of affairs in the bay is terrible. In Rick’s opinion the Town of Falmouth has benn ‘dragging its feet’. He said it is likely there will be new legal challenges filed to be litigated in the courts if the Town won’t act.
- Q (Scott Simenas) What are the viable alternatives to sewering? From what we hear there aren’t many that work? A: Title IV Nitrogen removing septic tanks work, although you might need a combination of sewering and nitrogen removal in some areas. Road runoff is obvious and simple and should be routine, urine diversion, lawn fertilizer controls.
- Q (Kathy Fox Alfano, Chair of Bourne WQ Committee & candidate for State Rep 3rd Barnstable) We are all over the things you’re talking about but we only have 2 sites with high TMDL; I’m running again for state rep and would love to get together and learn more. A: Happy to talk to you, David Vieira is not outspoken on WQ topic.
- Q (Earle Barnhart) We also followed MassDEP hearings and fine print of proposed regulations gives a couple options that are different and better from sewers including if a Town can show they have special circumstances they can request to meet only 75% of TMDL not full compliance, so we’ve been looking at the Falmouth plans and there are special circumstances so they could apply urine diversion to the properties if that would mean they could meet 75% with urine diversion toilets for men only in one area they could meet that option. WQMC doesn’t seem to understand, we believe men would do it because they’re used to urinals. Hilde Maingay adds that Su Moran was positive about a project about this. A: When you set a goal of 75% of what scientists tell you needs to be met to put us back where we were for water quality, that lower number becomes the standard. I adamantly oppose the 75% choice simply because it is easier; scientists spent a lot of time on data to set the standard they did.
- Q (Scott Simenas) Are there any examples of good water quality management? A: Wellfleet just put in for a $3.5M grant from the revolving fund to establish Title IV nitrogen removing septic tanks across the town. CPWB might hire the person who wrote that plan to do it for Waquoit Bay
- Q (Sandy Faiman-Silva) The one way to make lasting change in our community is to run for office, sit on boards, submit articles to town meeting, and educate the public. A: Thank you, looks like this is happening in Mashpee and Falmouth is being left behind in this area.
Zelda MacGregor said links provided to Tufts Study mentioned by Rick’s presentation are: (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/75e74e9eadda409aa09c054f3acdaacc). Also link to video of Rick’s presentation and Q&A can be found at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yyneSX5rk7G2ObGcCDafbL3yKuQqyxUV/view?usp=share_link .