Swifts Beach residents plan next steps as sewer project is delayed

Feb 14, 2023

In an executive session on Thursday, Feb. 9, the Sewer Commission decided to delay the planned repairs of the Swifts Beach sewer line, including the controversial installation of 130 “grinder pumps” at homeowners’ expense, until after Labor Day.

The news came as a relief to Swifts Beach residents, who say that the pumps, which grind up solid waste to make it more manageable, are expensive and unnecessary. 

Cheryl Callaghan-Dunn, spokeswoman for the Swifts Beach Citizens Group, said that Swifts Beach residents “truly appreciate” the delay, but that they will not rest until the project is cancelled. 

“We... will continue our opposition to this project in whatever form is needed,” Callaghan-Dunn said. 

The Swifts Beach Citizens Group was formed in opposition to the grinder pump project, which could cost homeowners anywhere from $400 to $4,000 per pump. Some residents who cannot afford the pumps are planning to sell their homes and move away. 

The group has previously hired an attorney to represent neighborhood residents, and has filed multiple requests to see “bids, proposals, contracts, plans, votes, meeting minutes and presentations related to the project.”

The group currently plans to write a second demand letter to the town, “a cease and desist where we will outline the town’s failure to comply with due process, disregard of the law and other legal failures.”

The letter will also “establish a record of wrongdoing that we could then use in a court action if need be.”

The group is petitioning to add a warrant on the agenda of this spring’s Town Meeting, encouraging the town to terminate the contract to install the grinder pumps and “consider all options to repair the gravity sewer lines” instead. 

The petition has 57 signatures as of Feb. 15. 

A second petition for seasonal residents has 131 signatures as of Feb. 15. 

“We hope to see the Sewer Commissioners draft articles... to reappropriate the funding that has been approved for grinder projects toward repairing the existing gravity sewer system,” said Leslie Carlson, who wrote the original draft of the petition. 

At last spring’s Town Meeting, voters approved $3 million dollars for replacing Swifts Beach’s old gravity sewer system with a low-pressure system, which would require the grinder pumps. 

The warrant alleges that Water Pollution Control Director Guy Campinha misled voters about what they were approving by saying that homeowners would not have to bear the cost of the pumps. 

In the warrant, Campinha is quoted as saying, “Presently we will pay for this project out of our budget and we will pay for the next project out of our budget.”

Campinha, who did not respond to requests for comment, has argued that the gravity sewer system is outdated and in dire need of replacing.

In its executive session, the Sewer Commission also delayed the long-anticipated question-and-answer session between the Commissioners and local residents. 

Sewer Commissioner Peter Dunlop said that the date of the session could be decided during the Commission’s Zoom meeting on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 5:30 p.m.

The Swifts Beach Citizens Group is currently collecting signatures for the Town Meeting item, and raising money for legal fees from Swifts Beach residents. 

The group has also made a website, http://swiftsbeachinfo.com/.