At its meeting on Monday night, the Board of Selectmen voted to appeal the terms of the permit recently issued on Falmouth’s Wastewater Treatment Facility by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Wastewater Superintendent Gerald Potamis told the board the appeal would be necessary if the town is to have a chance of avoiding the stiff financial penalties it could incur if it fails to meet the tougher regulatory standards called for in the new permit.
Potamis said the state’s most recent permit, issued on Nov. 2, contains more stringent guidelines than the previous document, under which the Wastewater Treatment Facility was constructed. The town was not expecting the changes when the $15 million facility was built, and may not have a realistic chance of meeting the new standards.
The permit also calls for the sewering of West Falmouth, an extremely expensive proposition which has been discussed as one option for dealing with the elevated nitrogen levels in Falmouth’s coastal waters, but which has not been definitely decided upon.
Potamis said the move would be considered a “friendly appeal,” opening the door for clarification of some of the permit’s less well-defined guidelines, and negotiation between the town and MassDEP as to its exact terms. At the very least, the appeal process would likely prevent the state from imposing fines or initiating legal action for the time being, though Potamis pointed out that the town will still be vulnerable to being sued by private citizens.
Chairman of the Water Quality Management Committee Eric Turkington agreed that the appeal was necessary, saying the new guidelines presented “an unworkable standard.” Turkington also said MassDEP’s attempt to force West Falmouth sewering by linking the issue to the treatment plant’s permitting had “no legal basis.”
The board also heard from Nils Bolgen of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, who recommended two firms to consult with the town on its controversial wind turbines. The board voted unanimously to hire both.
Recently shut down until at least the spring, the turbines’ fate is unclear. DNV Renewables, a wind energy consulting firm, and Acentech, which specializes in issues involving acoustics and vibrations, will study the issue and advise the town on its options, which include running the turbines as normal, moving them to a less populated area, or dismantling them entirely. Bolgen said MassCEC would also be available to consult and advise throughout the process.