Observer Corps Report June 2019
The Water Quality Management Committee (WQMC) is tasked with improving water quality in Falmouth’s estuaries, primarily by removing nitrogen. The Committee focuses on addressing the most polluted south facing estuaries first, avoiding tax increases, and identifying technological alternatives that will minimize the need to deploy sewers town wide. The committee is using adaptive management: test, implement, test, react.
They are preparing a required update to the comprehensive wastewater management plan (CWMP) for the south facing estuaries which will summarize the results of their research to date and recommend the next big project for 2025: sewering a portion of Great Pond. This project will require an additional discharge site: decision about the site has to be made by 2021. It is a big decision: alternatives identified to date are likely to use the full $60MM available in the 2021capital plan for waste water treatment. Selectmen need to approve the plan by September to meet the December 31, 2019 deadline of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA).
They are also developing a draft comprehensive waste water management plan for Oyster Pond. This plan will probably be IA (innovative alternative Septic) focused.
The Committee has 7 members appointed by the selectmen. The committee is a stable, hardworking team of knowledgeable members. Eric Turkington is Chairman, Virginia Valiela is Vice-Chair. The meetings are well managed. Members have high quality discussions.
Selectman Doug Brown attends many meetings. Town employees are frequently in attendance when the agenda covers their area or responsibility (shellfish, sewer plant, and storm water).
The Committee has a paid consulting firm, Science Wares, which provides technical and administrative support. The Committee also makes heavy use of paid consultants to monitor water quality or prepare technical reports.
Most meetings are televised and can be watched on FCTV on demand. Although the general public is not usually in attendance, representatives of homeowners associations or interested environmental groups attend periodically. The press, particularly the Falmouth Enterprise, frequently publishes articles about the proceedings.
The committee members are hardworking, highly committed to achieving their objectives. Appointment to this committee requires many hours of work outside the formal committee meeting. They are members of working groups for this and other committees in town impacted by their initiatives, accept cross appointments to other committees (Shellfish Advisory Committee), use their credentials as scientists to help secure research funding that benefits town, sponsor warrants for town meeting.
Open Meeting Law compliance appears top of mind
Meetings are properly noticed. There was a challenge regarding accuracy of agendas that was decided in the committees favor by town counsel. Minutes are reviewed promptly and added to the town website after approval but not monthly. Recently minutes have been enhanced to include a list materials of presented at the meeting. Members show an awareness of their communication restrictions, correct each other if lapses seem imminent.
Compliance with MA section 30 B
Section 30B compliance is becoming more top of mind as more high value, multi-year contracts are on the docket. Members are aware that they have the responsibility to comply and have sought guidance, including from the Town counsel, when questions arose.
In summary, this is a hardworking, well run committee which uses strong management and scientific skills to find economically feasible solutions to removing nitrogen from our estuaries.
Mariam Cronin, LWVF Observer