Tisbury revisits wastewater management plan

Selectmen discuss expanding current facilities and constructing new treatment plant.

Adam Epstein presents his idea for Jaws at Beach Road Weekend — Lucas Thors

Consultants with Environmental Partners Group (EP) met with Tisbury selectmen Tuesday to revisit a comprehensive wastewater management plan (CWMP). 

Mark White of EP recapped his presentation from November 2019, when he first presented the possibility of a multiyear plan for a brand-new wastewater treatment plant for the town. “Many issues in town are related to wastewater,” White said. 

He noted the expansion of the treatment system in the State Road sewer district, and said that nominal expansion will provide an additional 36,000 gallons per day of wastewater flow. “This expansion is targeted toward the State Road sewer district, and for good reason,” White said.

Improving the wastewater treatment facilities along State Road will address several environmental issues Tisbury is facing, according to White.

The town is working toward achieving its goal of a target total maximum daily load (TMDL) to minimize the flow of nitrogen from septic tanks into Tashmoo. 

According to White, the town is also being faced with additional needs in the B1 sewer district, and continuous large development projects, such as affordable housing construction, hitting the Island every month.

“All those needs go well beyond the additional 36,000 gallons per day we are getting,” White said. “So we need to ask ourselves if this is really the best direction to go. If we were to expand, what would that look like? If we are going to do a new treatment plant, what would that look like, and how much would it cost?”

White said the wastewater plan will look long-term at issues the town is facing, and will involve many overarching policy decisions and fundamental decisions surrounding cost allocation. “How can we make this project as efficient as possible? We need to work closely with MassDEP; they need to be a partner with us in this initiative,” White said.

According to selectman Jeff Kristal, some of the tasks set forth in the CWMP have been ongoing goals of the town for several years. He said selectmen and consultants spent time in work sessions with the board of health agents, and worked to collect all the studies done on the Tisbury wastewater issue over the years. “We want all this information that we already have available to be included in this new plan, so we aren’t wasting money and reinventing the wheel,” Kristal said.

According to Kristal, the town approved $150,000 of funding to address wastewater issues, but he said that probably wouldn’t be enough for the total CWMP. 

The town has drafted a warrant article for the upcoming town meeting for $6.5 million in wastewater funding.

Kristal said that if that funding doesn’t get approved, he is worried the project will be delayed another two years.

Selectman Jim Rogers said the town is looking for long-term financial planning, not a piecemeal approach.

“I would rather have us fund whatever we need to fund, and get this plan done once and for all,” Rogers said. “We need to develop a scope of work with EP and have a working meeting with them to determine what it’s really going to take to get some of this stuff done.”

Selectmen’s chair Melinda Loberg said the town might be able to get financial assistance from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to help with the CWMP, and can work to address wastewater issues step by step, instead of waiting to come up with the entire plan. “We don’t need to have the entire CWMP done in order for the town to begin implementing some of the elements that have been in the planning stages for a number of years now,” Loberg said.

The selectmen agreed to work closely with MassDEP and EP consultants to draft a scope of work, and get a better financial picture of what it will take to implement some of the changes in the CWMP.
‘Jaws’ comes to Beach Road Weekend

Selectmen met with Adam Epstein, CEO of Innovation Arts and Entertainment, to hear about adding an extra day to the festival. Epstein said he wants to show Jaws on July 23, the day before the Beach Road Weekend festival gets underway.

“Last year, we opened Beach Road Weekend with a showing of ‘Jaws’ alongside the Cape Symphony Orchestra,” Epstein said. “It was a great family event. We sold tickets trying to recover the investment for the symphony, but it didn’t quite work out on that level.”

In the past, the town has held Jaws Fest at Owen Park, but Epstein said it might be a good opportunity to utilize all the equipment that will already be available because of the festival for a movie showing.

“We can really take advantage of all this gear that will already be set up. We can show the movie with no extra work or equipment involved, except for the additional infrastructure,” Epstein said. 

Epstein said this event would be free to the public, but it would be ticketed in order to restrict capacity.

He said he will make the same guarantee as he did last year regarding rehabilitation of the festival grounds — the field would be returned in the same or better condition as before the festival.

“We hired a Tisbury certified landscape engineer to rehabilitate the park. They delivered last year, and we would devote the same amount of attention this year,” Epstein said.

Because there will be no assigned seating, Epstein said there will be less of an impact on the condition of the grass.

“It will just be people sitting on blankets and standing, instead of that large platform we had for assigned seating last year,” Epstein said.

Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling said he doesn’t want to “throw a wrench in the works,” and agreed that last year’s festival “went off without a hitch.” But he said this year, the police and fire departments are anticipating a much larger crowd than that for the inaugural event last year.

“We have concerns about our ability to man this, from a personnel standpoint,” Schilling said. “We were tapped out last year, and this is the second time around. We are positive about this, but we need to figure out what it’s going to take for this to go smoothly.”

Selectmen agreed to approve the additional day, pending discussion and approval by town department heads.