By Laura M. Reckford
FALMOUTH – Falmouth Town Meeting members approved major water and wastewater projects this week but now it is up to the voters as to whether the projects go forward.
Falmouth’s town election is scheduled for May 20.
The big ticket items for voters will include a $46.5 million water treatment and filtration plant for Long Pond, which supplies most of the town’s drinking water. Voters will also be faced with $49.8 million in wastewater projects including construction of sewer infrastructure for homes around Little Pond.
Eric Turkington, chairman of the Falmouth Water Quality Management Committee, told town meeting members Wednesday night that the town will be leading the nation in innovative methods to clean up wastewater but sewering is necessary for Little Pond to meet state requirements for pollution remediation.
The town is engaged in pilot projects for alternative methods to clean up the pond, including using the natural filtration of oysters and converting homeowners to eco-toilets.
“The work this town has begun on these alternative demonstration projects is recognized by the EPA as cutting edge science that will show the whole nation how to deal with nutrients in estuaries,” Turkington said.
He cautioned against delaying approval of the plan, saying, “Now is the time to put our money where our mouth is and vote to implement our plan.”
About 15 homeowners have agreed to have eco-toilets installed in their home, becoming part of a pilot program that town meeting approved last year.
Hilde Maingay and Earle Barnhart of Hatchville have led a group of Falmouth residents who believe that alternatives to sewering, like eco-toilets, aquaculture and other methods are more sustainable, as well as being less expensive.
Maingay, who, with Barnhart, founded the Cape Cod Eco-toilet Center, urged town meeting voters not to support the sewers but instead to work towards more sustainable solutions. “We’re doing for the kids so they can have a good life too and be in a sustainable world and not a world where we spread our pollutants around,” she said.
But Turkington countered that there is no cheaper plan that the one put before voters that will eliminate the need for sewering.
After about an hour and a half of debate, town meeting members voted 152 in favor and 42 opposed to the wastewater projects, meeting the necessary two-thirds approval for the question to go to the ballot.
Also on the May town election ballot will be a question about whether to raise taxes for a $1.6 million one-time debt exclusion to pay for installation of an artificial turf field at Falmouth High School. If approved by voters, the field will add a one-time cost of about $61 to tax bills.