Could limited sewer capacity hinder Littleton Drive development?

Jan 7, 2021

Wareham’s limited sewer capacity could be a hurdle developer Pennrose might face when constructing its proposed 93-unit housing complex at Littleton Drive, according to discussion at a Jan. 7 Wareham Redevelopment Authority meeting.

In October 2020, the town’s limited sewer capacity caused Wareham’s Sewer Commissioners to implement a nine-month moratorium on new connections. An inability to connect to the town sewer system would likely complicate Pennrose’s plans to construct a complex that would include 44 affordable one-bedroom senior units (for those aged 62+) and 49 non-age restricted rental units for families and people in the workforce.

The town’s sewer plant is currently at its maximum allowed capacity, and could not safely process more waste. The town is working on expanding the plant’s capacity by working toward creating a new outflow pipe which would discharge clean, treated water into the Cape Cod Canal. Right now, that water is discharged in to the Agawam River. The river’s ecological needs limit the amount that can be discharged.

The new outfall pipe would initially increase the plant’s capacity from 1.56 million gallons daily to 2 million gallons daily. With expansions to the physical plant, the town would be able to process up to 7 million gallons daily. The sewer department recently approved a contract with an engineer who will plan the most direct feasible route for the pipe to the canal. At this time, no timeline to the project’s completion has been discussed publicly. The overall cost and funding source for the project, and the bureaucratic hurdles to its completion, are still unknown.

After mentioning that a sewer capacity limit could hinder the project, Town Planner Ken Buckland said he thought the Littleton Drive project would progress slowly enough that sewer capacity might not be an issue.

“It’ll take a couple of years for this project to get in place,” Buckland said. “By then some resolution of conditions at the wastewater treatment plant may be in place.” 

But Richard Swenson, a member of the Redevelopment Authority and the Planning Board, still had expressed concerns.

“Is that really the wisest course of action?” he asked. “For us to do a ‘let’s hope it gets resolved by then’ approach?” 

Buckland said it “would probably be nice” to address the capacity issue up front, and said that Guy Campinha, the director of water pollution control in Wareham, was in communication with the developers.

“Nothing that (Guy) has said so far is saying that that (the project) wouldn’t be allowed,” Buckland said. 

But, despite this, Buckland said the capacity issue was enough of a concern for him to bring it to the Redevelopment Authority’s attention.

Swenson agreed that it would be important to keep sewer capacity in mind moving forward, referring to it as a “potential showstopper” issue. 

“It’s clear to me that the whole capacity issue is going to have to be addressed, regardless of this project or not,” Swenson said. “So I tend to agree that it’s going to get taken care of. But… I think it’s something that we at least need to keep an eye on.”

The board planned to discuss the capacity concerns with Campinha if and when the project moves forward.