Select Board expresses support for petition to cancel Swifts Beach project

Mar 7, 2023

The Select Board has voiced its support of a Town Meeting petition by Swifts Beach residents to cancel the controversial planned replacement of the neighborhood’s gravity sewer system with a low-pressure system, which would force 130 homes to install sewage-grinding pumps at a cost of $400 to $4,000 apiece.

At the Select Board meeting on Tuesday, March 7, Chair Judith Whiteside said that while only the Sewer Commission has jurisdiction over the town sewer system, it was important that the Select Board listen to residents’ concerns.

Whiteside sympathized with Swifts Beach residents’ claims that the Sewer Commission has not been transparent about the nature of the project and whether homeowners would foot the bill for it. 

“It’s incumbent upon us to be able to understand the issues,” Whiteside said. “To me, if I lived in Swifts Beach, I would have signed the petition.”

Despite its sympathies, the Board will not vote on whether to recommend the petition for Town Meeting until its next meeting on Tuesday, March 14. 

Jean Welch and Robert Scanlan, members of the Swifts Beach Citizens Group formed in opposition to the project, presented the petition at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The residents have less confidence about the original decision,” Welch told the Board. 

Voters approved the sewer system replacement at last spring’s Town Meeting, but Swifts Beach residents have since argued that at the time, Water Pollution Control Facility Director Guy Campinha falsely stated that homeowners would not have to pay for the grinder pumps.

Along with canceling the sewer system replacement, Welch said that Swifts Beach residents want the town to conduct “a really cohesive study” of the current gravity system and review video of it in action.

“When residents ask for information about the system,” Welch said, “it’s vague what condition it’s in.” 

In February, the Sewer Commission decided to delay work on the sewer system until after Labor Day.

In an email sent to Wareham Week, Scanlan said that he spoke with Whiteside about the issue on Friday, March 3.

“The Select Board and others are now working actively and aggressively to find a way to repair or bypass the pipe on Wankinquoah [Avenue],” Scanlan wrote, “thereby fixing the issue and negating any need for a low-pressure system and grinder pumps.”

Scanlan added that, unlike the Sewer Commissioners “the Select Board is very much on our side.”