The airfield is not a done deal for the septic plant: alternative sites to explore

In two days of meetings – the water advisory committee on Monday and the city council business session on Tuesday – the exploration of sites for a sewage treatment system serving the center has expanded beyond the Klenawicus airfield.

Councilwoman Meg Larsen described the WAC’s discussion of alternative sites as “original thought”.

It’s not that the airfield idea has been abandoned. But Pio Lombardo of Lombardo Associates, the consultancy that created the report recommending the location, agreed with WAC members on Monday that a full exploration of several other Center sites should take place to provide more comprehensive information.

What opened the discussions seemed to be the possibility of locating a treatment system in one place, while sending clean, treated water to another place.

Treatment and disposal systems may be at different sites, Lombardo told WAC on Monday.

“You’re lucky because you have options,” Lombardo told WAC.

From the time the Lombardo report was first presented at a city council working session, neighbors in the area around the airfield have been in opposition, saying it has flooding problems and that treated effluent was affecting the port of Coecles. Lombardo said the treated effluent would be cleaner than the runoff that currently pours into the port.

Another concern has been repeatedly expressed by Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board Chairman Gordon Gooding. He warned again during Tuesday’s working session that if preserved land – such as the airfield – were allowed to change use after acquisition, it would set a bad precedent. Current practice is to identify the uses and maintenance of preserved land at the time of acquisition.

But supervisor Gerry Siller said Tuesday that CPF is about preserving the community, not the land, and that includes keeping the water clean.

Another concern has been whether to adopt the treatment system recommended by the Lombardo report – the company-developed NitrexTM technology system, which some people have questioned.

Mr. Lombardo maintains that his business will not benefit from using the technology, noting that there are a limited number of wastewater treatment systems. Suffolk County would approve its use on the island, and the Nitrex TM technology is unparalleled in its ability to treat wastewater, Lombardo said.

Another suggestion that emerged during Tuesday’s working session was the possible use of land on the Smith Street horse farm site. The city does not own this land, but Siller said no site that can be used is listed.

Others include Fiske Field; land adjacent to the Center fire station; land in the Sachem’s Wood area; the recycling center; and private land between the library and the post office. There were concerns in the report about each of these locations in terms of possible limits to expansion that might be necessary if other currently unidentified contaminants need to be addressed, or if there is a desire to treat nitrates in other areas of the island.

WAC member Andrew Chapman asked if the treatment system is placed somewhere in the Centre, is there a risk that a contaminant will be identified and cannot be treated there.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” Lombardo replied. Equipment to treat other contaminants is going to need space to be added, and some Center sites might not be large enough to accommodate that, he added.

The timing of any project implementation is a concern for WAC Chairman Peter Grand. He would like to see progress on the design of the Centre’s wastewater management system while federal infrastructure funds are available.

The design of the system is already funded by the same grant as that planned for the Lombardo study.

Siller told city council on Tuesday that addressing water quality issues has been essential for decades, and this is the first time the city has come close to developing a plan.

It will take more exploration and discussion, the supervisor said. “We’re not going to settle,” Siller said, explaining that he wants to take the time to make the best project possible, which means more exploration and discussion before moving into the design phase.