This special edition of the Orleans Pond Coalition’s Bulletin is brought to you on behalf of the Orleans Water Quality Advisory Panel. It summarizes the panel’s recent meeting on January 20, where AECOM presented quite a bit of material on their effort. It also lists several meetings scheduled for this month, including two this week on the downtown planning effort.
Water Quality & Wastewater Planning
Program Status Update
On January 20th, the Orleans Water Quality Advisory Panel (OWQAP) met with AECOM, the town’s engineering consultant, to review the projects AECOM has underway as part of our ongoing wastewater planning efforts. AECOM provided an update on plans to curtail operations at Tri-Town, demonstrated their new financial planning tool, outlined plans for a monitoring and modeling program, presented their current thinking on collection, treatment, and disposal efforts, and summarized the results from the downtown planning effort. AECOM also presented an aggressive schedule of public meetings to continue to communicate their efforts to the town.
Tri-Town Septage Plant Transition
Orleans, along with Eastham and Brewster, has decided to allow Tri-Town’s permit to expire at the end of the year and is moving ahead with plans to demolish the plant next year. Tri-Town currently plans to accept “donations” through the end of October, although they may need to curtail operations sooner if any equipment breaks down or if any of the current staff move on to other jobs.
AECOM is also developing plans to demolish the Tri-Town plant and we expect to ask Town Meeting for funds to complete the demolition design this year and to demolish the plant next year. Any potential savings of delaying demolition until a new plant is constructed would have been eroded by the costs of mothballing the existing plant. Taking into account costs for security, surveillance, utilities, insurance, and inflation, the selectmen are recommending that we move ahead with demolishing the plant.
AECOM also considered the suggestion that the plant be used as a transfer station until a new facility comes online. A transfer station at Tri-Town would not be competitive because the septage marketplace is very price sensitive. In addition, any continued operations at Tri-Town would require the three towns to renegotiate and extend the inter-municipal agreement and potentially delay any other use of the site.
Financial Plan Update
A key goal for this year’s effort is to provide a clearer view into what our proposed wastewater solutions will cost, how we will allocate those costs, and what steps we can take to keep these solutions as affordable as possible. AECOM demonstrated their new financial modeling tool which will help Orleans understand and present these costs. Some of the comparative financial aspects will be presented at the February 10th Board of Selectman meeting, (for those who may want to view personally or on Ch. 18).
The new financial model takes into account the multiple cost and revenue components, different categories of users, options to allocate those costs by user category, and financing options. The financial team will be able to easily understand the impact of grants or debt-forgiveness options. Most important, it will allow the town to test and optimize different scenarios and to evaluate the affordability of the proposed solutions.
The next steps are to work with the engineering teams and incorporate their cost and revenue estimates into the financial model. The town will then be in a position to develop much more reliable financial estimates as we move forward.
Developing a Monitoring and Modeling Program
Orleans is taking steps to expand its water quality monitoring programs, both to update our current water quality goals and to measure the effectiveness of any solutions we eventually build. Our current goals, the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) of nitrogen allowed in our waters, were set by the Massachusetts Estuaries Project years ago. Since then, the dynamics in Town Cove have changed and the additional break in the barrier beach now allows more waters into Pleasant Bay.
To begin this process, OWQAP will meet on February 10th to look at our existing monitoring efforts and conduct a “gap analysis” for moving forward. The goal will be to understand what we’ve been doing up to this point, to assess what information is currently available, and to agree on what we need to do in the future.
The result will be a five-year monitoring work plan defining what monitoring we need to have in place, who is responsible for which components, and how much they will cost. This overall plan will build on the work now being done by various agencies and volunteer efforts. It will set a strategy for monitoring our freshwater ponds as well as our saltwater estuaries.
Collection, Treatment, and Disposal System Update
Considerable work is underway to provide more specific information about the collection, treatment, and disposal systems called for in last year’s consensus agreement. AECOM has updated maps for both Downtown Orleans and for Meetinghouse Pond, identifying where it would be appropriate to use conventional gravity sewers and where it would be more cost effective to use smaller diameter low pressure solutions, so called “STEP/STEG” designs.
The town is also working to identify sites for effluent from the proposed new plant at the Tri-Town and for the proposed smaller facility in East Orleans. The town had planned to consider the Exit 12 cloverleaf, but the Department of Transportation has not allowed Orleans to evaluate the site. The town is now considering other locations, among them at the edge of the Tri-Town site, inside the Little Namskaket watershed.
In East Orleans, the town has begun to evaluate the former Hubler property at 223 Beach Road. AECOM has put in place monitoring wells and taken initial soil borings. Their plans to evaluate the site are continuing, but the initial results so far are very positive.
Downtown Planning Study Update
On December 15th, AECOM conducted a workshop to review the initial results from the downtown planning study now underway. The study focuses on the downtown and village center areas and builds upon the 2006 Comprehensive Plan and the 2009 Village Center Plan. AECOM also conducted an economic and market analysis which highlighted some of the current challenges facing Orleans. In particular, AECOM highlighted issues with wastewater, the lack of affordable housing, and inadequate parking.
The initial workshop supported vision statements developed in 2006 and 2009, both of which called for the Orleans Village Center to be a vibrant commercial and community center for the town. The plan envisions a higher year-round residential density in Village Center as an essential component of a more vibrant Orleans. To draw people year round, the workshop attendees called for an anchor facility, such as an educational institution, movie theatre, or the like. They also called for a variety of housing to support an emerging workforce and an aging senior population. This ongoing conversation is being furthered on February 4th at both an Orleans Citizen Forum during the day and an AECOM workshop in the evening.
Alternate Technology Demonstration Projects
Last year’s consensus agreement also called for Orleans to launch demonstration projects to test the effectiveness of non-traditional technologies to reduce nitrogen in our waterways. The panel broke into separate groups to review possible projects for aquaculture and shellfish propagation, floating constructed wetlands, and permeable reactive barriers.
Aquaculture and Shellfish Propagation
The top projects being considered are to increase the amount of oysters and quahogs in the existing grants at Little Pleasant Bay and to construct an oyster reef demo, possibly in Quanset Pond. (The AECOM team may also consider the option of building a reef at Pochet; propagating oysters in Arey’s Pond; and seeding quahogs in Town Cove, Mill Pond, and Lower River.)
Floating Constructed Wetlands
In evaluating sites for floating constructed wetlands, the engineering team considered possible use conflicts, utilities, ease of access, transferability of results, the ability to quantify results, land ownership, and the depth of surface water. The team also eliminated fresh water ponds and large water bodies, at least for the initial demonstration project.
At the top of the list, the team is considering Lonnie’s Pond and Quanset Pond. They are also cpmsoderomg floating constructed wetlands in Namequoit River, Pah Wah Pond, and Pocket Neck.
Permeable Reactive Barriers
The AECOM engineers presented an overview of the two PRB technologies being considered. The alternative is to fill a ditch with mulch or similar material may prove impractical, due to the evident depth of discharge currently showing. For example, a PRB at Main Street and Tonset Road might need to be 50 feet deep. The other alternative to develop a PRB using injection wells appears to be more appropriate for Orleans.
PRBs will be sited based on suitability, permitting requirements, the ease of locating monitoring wells, and the potential for removing nitrogen. The top sites being considered are Main Street at Tonset Road, South Orleans Road at Eldredge Park Way and Tonset Road, Gibson Road on Town Cove, and at the Town Landfill.
Wastewater issues appear to be a hot topic in Orleans over the next few weeks:
- On February 4th, from 3 to 4:30, the Orleans Citizen’s Forum will host a discussion of the downtown planning effort at the Orleans Council on Aging;
- Also on February 4th, from 6:30 to 8:30, will be the second workshop for the downtown planning effort, also at the Orleans Council on Aging. This will be a joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, the Board of Health, the Water Quality Advisory Panel, the Board of Water & Sewer Commissioners, and the Architectural Review Committee;
- On February 9th, from 1 to 3, the Orleans Water Quality Advisory Panel will meet at the Orleans Town Hall for a presentation from the Cadmus Group on their Pleasant Bay Water Quality Data;
- On February 10th, from 8:30 to noon, AECOM will conduct the Water Quality Monitoring and Modeling Workshop described above. This meeting will also be in the Orleans Town Hall;
- Also on February 10th, beginning at 6:30, the Board of Selectmen will discuss the reset plan for Orleans, public-private partnerships, and Todd Thayer’s proposed plans for his 15 acre parcel in downtown Orleans;
- On February 17th, from 8:30 to noon, the Orleans Water Quality Advisory Panel will meet, continuing their plan to meet monthly.