Less groundwater, more repairs created extra sewer plant capacity

Mar 9, 2023

Wareham’s sewer plant is processing 50,000 fewer gallons of water a day than in previous years because of reduced groundwater levels and improvements to the plant, consulting engineer Russell Kleekamp told the Sewer Commission at its meeting on Thursday, March 9. 

The Sewer Commission first heard the 50,000 gallons statistic at its previous meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23, but did not hear details about where that number came from until the March 9 meeting. 

The number creates uncertainty about the future of Wareham’s moratorium on permits for new sewer hookups.

The moratorium, which prevented homes and businesses from adding new flows to the plant, was designed to prevent the plant from reaching 80% capacity.

When the moratorium was put in place, the plant was at 76% capacity.

“Since the groundwater levels have receded a little bit,” Kleekamp said, “we’ve gone under the 80% mark.”

If the plant reached 80% capacity, the state Department of Environmental Protection would step in to review the plant. If the Department didn’t like what it saw, it could impose much stricter oversight on the plant.

This means that the town could consider lifting the moratorium, but with so much still unknown, the Sewer Commission has not yet taken any action.

“We’re not there yet,” Sewer Commission Chair Jim Giberti said.

The decrease in groundwater levels, Kleekamp said, is partially attributable to recent drought.

In response, Giberti pointed out that “drought doesn’t happen every day.”

“Aren’t we leaving ourselves a little open by jumping onto this 50,000 number?” Giberti asked. 

“I’m hoping that the number is even higher,” Kleekamp replied, adding that 50,000 is only a conservative estimate.

“Engineers are conservative by nature,” he said. 

Kleekamp also said that the decrease in water going through the sewer plant each day is a sign that past repairs to the plant are working as intended. 

Further repairs to the aging plant, to the tune of $36 million, will be voted on at Town Meeting this spring.