Wareham's sewer plant a model for other communities

Mar 15, 2012

It may be a little known fact, but it's one that other communities across the Commonwealth are a bit envious of: Wareham's Water Pollution Control Facility -- often referred to by the more common moniker, sewer plant -- is really good at reducing nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater, which helps to cut down on their pollution of area waterways.

The plant is so good that earlier this month, representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency visited to tour the facility and see just how Wareham does it.

Wareham is "one of the few, if not the only treatment plant in this area that treats for low levels of phosphorus and nitrogen," David Pincumbe of the Environmental Protection Agency said after his March 9 tour. "Wareham does an impressive job."

Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients -- which generally aren't bad things. They're important ingredients in fertilizers and, naturally, are present in human waste. They can be bad, however, when there is too much of them in the waterways.

"The receiving water bodies get over-enriched," Pincumbe explained.

That is, when waterways have too much nitrogen and phosphorus, invasive species such as algae grow. Those invasive species then use up all of the oxygen, which causes fish, shellfish, and other marine life to die.

Wareham's success in treating water for those two nutrients can be attributed to the $22 million sewer plant upgrade the town completed in 2005.

Also helping the pollution problem is Wareham's effort to extend the town sewer to more neighborhoods -- though that is often controversial, as it comes with a big price tag for homeowners.

At the plant, Water Pollution Control Facility employees, such as "Keeper of the Process" Jim Boliver, monitor the entire process daily to make sure the operation is running smoothly.

Boliver led the EPA reps and other visitors through the property, which is located off of Sandwich Road on Tony's Lane, explaining Wareham's procedure from start to finish.

"All this happens because of Jim. He cares about the environment," a smiling Water Pollution Control Facility Director Guy Campinha said after the tour, adding: "I'm proud of the fact that we were picked to tour."