Tests spare need to dig up Ocean Park
Tests of three leaching beds in Ocean Park, which were previously thought to be failing, reveal that the beds are working as designed. The development could save the Oak Bluffs wastewater district commission nearly $400,000. Plans to replace the beds, which would have meant digging up a large section of the park, have been put on hold.
The commissioners voted earlier this year to refurbish the "D" leaching beds under Ocean Park, in order to comply with an order of consent issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The state sanctioned the town last fall, after treated effluent was detected on the surface of the park. An engineering survey determined that one of the "D" beds, the one at the very lowest point in the park, was clogged with biological material that prevented water from leaching downward. Engineers assumed that the other "D" beds, located generally between the bandstand and Sea View Avenue, would be similarly compromised. All four "D" beds were shut down.
The refurbishment project would have meant digging up a large section of the park to replace pipes and crushed stone leaching beds, at an estimated cost of $400,000. But weeks before the scheduled start of the project, wastewater plant manager Joe Alosso and engineers working on the project decided to conduct test drilling, in conjunction with DEP engineers.
"In discussing it with the engineer," Mr. Alosso said, "he and I didn't want to dig up a large part of the park without knowing there was a problem. For short money, probably $2,000, it was worth it. We brought DEP over."
The results surprised all involved. "The other three beds are really clean, and not in any need of any repairs," Mr. Alosso said. "It's really good that we don't have to dig up the park."
Mr. Alosso now believes the solution is simply to isolate the single failed leaching bed, and return the other three to the system. He estimates the cost will be about $10,000, which he stresses will come from the wastewater district's retained earnings account, not taxpayer funds. During the test digging last week, engineers installed monitors that will provide information about how the other three "D" beds are functioning once they are brought back on line.
Mr. Alosso said it was his guess that the failed bed had never worked properly, and may have been compromised during installation of the leaching fields nearly a decade ago.
Shutting down a single bed will reduce the capacity of the leaching system by about 13,000 gallons per day. Mr. Alosso said that will not significantly affect operations now, and should be more than compensated if additional capacity is gained by developing new leaching fields on property next to the treatment plant. That property, known as the Leonardo property, could accommodate an additional 250,000 gallons per day.