Money is already flowing to a proposed wastewater treatment partnership between Dennis, Harwich and Yarmouth that is on the verge of becoming official.
A bill that would make the DHY Clean Waters Community Partnership a legal entity is still in the works, but $1 million in state funds has already been earmarked for the project through an amendment filed by state Rep. Timothy Whelan, R-Brewster, to an environmental bond.
“When the entity is finally established, they’ll have some startup cash to get the ball moving,” Whelan said.
The money is intended to help pay for engineering, design and other soft costs needed to finalize plans for a system that would bring wastewater from all three towns to a central treatment plant in South Dennis, Whelan said. State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, also lobbied on behalf of the earmark, he said.
In May, all three town meetings approved identical articles allowing for legislation that would create the partnership, which stands to save the towns a combined $100 million over installing individual wastewater treatment systems.
A draft of a bill that would make the partnership official was reviewed by all three towns’ boards of selectmen last month, and is currently in the hands of the counsel for the House. Once wording is finalized, the boards will have a chance to give the document final approval before the bill is filed by Whelan and state Reps. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, and William Crocker, R-Centerville, Whelan said.
A team of representatives from the towns has been working with engineering firm CDM Smith on the project for more than a year, and is aiming to finalize plans in time for another round of town meeting approvals next spring. If it’s approved, the project will take a phased approach to construction, which could take up to 40 years to complete.
The combined cost to the towns could approach $1 billion for the first phase, according to CDM Smith Vice President David Young, although officials involved have said it’s likely the project will be eligible for numerous state and federal grants.
“DEP refers to these three towns as their star pupil,” he said. “They’re very well regarded up on Beacon Hill for what their doing — for their cooperation and their work level.”
At a meeting earlier this year, Suuberg praised the partnership as a prime example of a community-led approach to solving the growing problem of pollution of Cape waterways by septic systems — an effort his agency plans to support.
If towns don’t act, the department could designate certain areas of the Cape as nitrogen sensitive, he said. That would allow it to require homeowners to install enhanced treatment systems for their individual septic systems.
Litigation is another possibility if towns don’t comply, Suuberg said.
Timing is a complex issue for the partnership, which will need to coordinate with several Massachusetts Department of Transportation projects planned on roads where sewer pipes will be laid in order to avoid potential delays that could result from the department’s policy that prohibits cuts to the roadway for five years after it’s been repaved.
“We’ve been putting together a plan, or an overlay of the various projects that are planned in the next four to five years, so we can try to coordinate those efforts and make sure we are doing pipework in advance if possible,” said Jeffrey Colby, Yarmouth’s director of public works.
A major consideration is the reconstruction of the Bass River Bridge on Route 28 between Dennis and Yarmouth, which is slated to begin in the fall of 2020, Colby said.
“We really need to coordinate with the project in the design stage so that we can easily and inexpensively add a wastewater utility component in the future,” he said. “If that bridge gets built with no considerations for wastewater piping now, adding it in five or six years could be extremely difficult.”
Another consideration is an $8.1 million revamp of a section of Route 28 between Dennis Commons Drive and Upper County Road in Dennis Port. The project, which could begin this fall, will widen the road’s shoulder and add streetscape elements that will better accommodate bicycles; rebuild sidewalks to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements; and add new plantings and street lighting, according to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Judith Riley Reardon.
Whelan said the $1 million could help the partnership advance more quickly toward putting pipes in the ground, but stressed that town boards won’t be rushed on finalizing legislative wording.
“This is such an important project,” he said. “It involves so much taxpayer money, that we’re going to take our time — as much time as it takes — to make sure that we get it exactly right.”