The Town of Marion has reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the terms of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit that governs the operation of the Town’s wastewater treatment facility. The Administrative Order on Consent memorializing the settlement and the final permit are both to become effective on December 1, 2017.
Originally issued in April 2017, the NPDES Permit imposed many new and/or modified requirements for the day-to-day operation of the facility. While some were, in the opinion of the Town, judged to be excessive in light of the ongoing operational effectiveness, others were deemed to be inappropriate and not supported by fact-based criteria. In addition, the cost of implementing such drastic changes would have been far too prohibitive for the rather small base of sewer ratepayers.
Accordingly, on May 15, 2017, the Town filed a Petition for Review with EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB). In a separate action, the Buzzards Bay Coalition also filed a Petition for Review for different reasons. The filing of these Petitions resulted in a stay of the new permit requirements while the matter was being adjudicated. All parties accepted the EAB’s invitation to participate in a mediation process in an effort to resolve the substantive issues.
Through the summer and early fall, the Town, led by Selectmen Chairman Jody Dickerson, engaged in ongoing discussions and negotiations with the other parties. The goal of these discussions was to alleviate some of the more burdensome permit requirements as the Town sought to optimize plant operations in the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner.
With the completion of the mediation process, and then through the resulting agreement, the Town believes it has achieved its goals. The highlights of the agreement include the following: the Town will line one (not all three) of the sewer lagoons; continue to save money by handling solids on site; study and develop a Lagoon Optimization Plan to maximize the use of the lined sewer lagoon and to minimize the use of the other lagoons to the extent reasonably practicable; and delay implementation of the new phosphorous requirements as the Town continues to participate in ongoing regionalization efforts involving Wareham and other entities.
The Town believes that this Administrative Order on Consent provides the Marion ratepayers with a thoughtful, efficient, and far more cost-effective plan for managing wastewater operations. The Selectmen are appreciative of the efforts of all the parties in producing a satisfactory resolution to these complicated issues.