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Marion is undertaking a study to examine whether the best approach to meet new federal requirements is regionalization or updates to its existing wastewater treatment plant.
In April, the Board of Selectmen approved a feasibility study to look at regionalization with nearby towns such as Wareham and Bourne. The town has hired GHD Engineering of Hyannis to undertake the study, which will cost $24,000, with funding coming from the Buzzards Bay Coalition.
Town Administrator Paul Dawson said new requirements under the National Pollutants Discharge Elimination System program, issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April 2017, placed more stringent restrictions on nitrogen, phosphorous and other pollutants flowing out of the town’s wastewater plant.
The new rules would require the town to line each of the plant’s three lagoons, where wastewater is stored pending treatment. Dawson said there has been contention as to whether the lagoons leak and, if so, how much.
After a mediation process, the EPA and Marion reached an administrative order of consent that allows the town to line one lagoon now and delay some of the other requirements of its NPDES permit.
“Marion has just 1,600 ratepayers to foot this bill, which is approximately $15 million to $20 million,” Dawson said. “It’s huge, and that’s just to deal with the requirements of the NPDES permit.”
GHD Engineering will explore a number of options for the town, including running pipes to the town line to connect with Wareham and its treatment plant, a direct connection to a regional facility to avoid potential infrastructure problems along the way, and more.
“What we’re trying to figure out is whether joining with these other communities and entities makes sense not only from a logistical standpoint, but a cost standpoint,” Dawson said. “It’s hard to imagine what a facility of this size would need to be, accommodating Wareham, Marion, Bourne, Plymouth, Massachusetts Maritime Academy – it’s going to have to be a fairly large size treatment plant. That said, it still might make sense.”