Residents learn about sewer project planned for Swifts Beach
Dozens of Swifts Beach neighborhood residents filled the neighborhood association’s hall to capacity Saturday morning to hear about upcoming sewer work.
Tempers flared early in the meeting, with residents expressing confusion about cost and frustration about past sewer work.
The project in question will replace the sewer system connected to about 115 homes in the neighborhood and install a grinder pump at each house. The $3 million project was approved by Town Meeting this spring, and the cost will be paid for by all the sewer ratepayers.
This project will include the homes on Murphy, Barnes, Pleasant, Bayview, Columbia and Wankinco Streets.
The project is expected to begin by Oct. 1, after the town chooses and signs a contract by the end of September. The contract specifies that by 140 days after an agreement is signed, the project must be completed, so the contracted work is likely to be done by early 2023.
The existing system will be replaced with one much closer to the surface — about four feet deep — to get it further above the water table where possible and reduce the amount of sea and groundwater that filters into the pipes.
The town will repave the roads after work is complete and repair any damage to driveways if they need to dig through them to install the grinder pumps.
After that, residents will have about a year to connect to the new system. They will pay for that work to be done, but Sewer Director Guy Campinha said that should range in cost somewhere from $400 to $4,000. He emphasized, however, that he isn’t a contractor and can’t guarantee a specific cost. Campinha said that the town will put together a list of contractors familiar with the project that homeowners can use as a reference.
The town is working to find ways to assist homeowners who need it with that cost, and a number of banks offer septic repair loans at low interest rates — between 0 and 2.5%.
Still, people were upset that they would need to pay to hook in, arguing that because the project benefits the town as a whole, it should come at no cost to them.
Campinha said the residents will benefit the most directly, as crews will no longer need to pump out the Wankinco station. The old system will be abandoned once everyone has hooked into the new one.
Campinha answered a number of questions about the project with Bob Drake who designed the project and Mike Sparks, who works for the New England distributor of the grinder pumps.
The pumps will be installed as close as possible to each home’s current sewer hook-up. The pumps work by grinding up and discharging material once its tank reaches capacity — about 17 gallons. The average year-round resident can expect that the pump will use about $40 of electricity per year. Before homeowners leave for a longer trip or vacation, Sparks recommended letting a faucet run for some time to clear the pump.
The town will own the pumps and will fix or replace them if they malfunction. However, if residents damage the pump by flushing improper materials like baby wipes, kitty litter or oyster shells, they’ll be charged. Running an illegal sump pump could also damage the grinder pump.
If the pump malfunctions, the sewer department will be alerted immediately and a light on a panel to be installed on the side of the home will turn on.
In case of an extended power outage, residents can plug the pump into a generator or call the sewer department.
Seasonal residents are advised to leave contact information with the sewer department so the department can keep in touch. If they’d like, they could have a contractor hook their home into the new pump while the owners are out of town.
The only interruption to sewer service will be while residents are having their homes hooked up — a process that should only take a few hours.
This project is the first stage of a larger effort. The sewer department is looking to use the same system at a further 850 homes in Swifts Beach, and officials said they may bring the technique to other parts of town in the future.
Those with questions can stop by the sewer department or call 508-295-6144.
More information will be posted on the town website at www.wareham.ma.us.