Letter: Act now, vote YES for clean water in Westport

Posted 3/25/24

The long-planned North Westport water and sewer system is a public investment whose time has come. The Town of Westport has arrived at a unique confluence of new opportunities and old needs. It is …

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Letter: Act now, vote YES for clean water in Westport


The long-planned North Westport water and sewer system is a public investment whose time has come. The Town of Westport has arrived at a unique confluence of new opportunities and old needs. It is asking its citizens to act at the elections on April 9 and the annual Town meeting on May 7 to approve a debt exclusion borrowing authorization and then authorize the Select Board, sitting as Water and Sewer Commissioners, to borrow up to $35 million to construct the Route 6 spine of this system.

The opportunities are the availability of federal funds from two bills – the ARPA grant funds from the Recovery Act, which have gone directly to the Town, County and State and the Infrastructure Investment Act, which puts a once-in-a-generation amount of money into the State’s water and sewer programs. The Town used those ARPA funds to design and obtain permits for the Route 6 trunk spine, and the first three contracts are currently out for bid. The Town’s ARPA funds were buttressed by other grants it was awarded, a $1 million earmark from Senator Rodrigues, as well as a $7.5 million commitment for funds from the State Revolving Fund’s 2024 Intended Use Plan. It continues to pursue additional grants and low interest loans, and as I write, the Town has representatives in Washington, DC, meeting with the Massachusetts delegation.

The needs are well known and are becoming more pressing with changes in regulations. The historic development pattern along Route 6 was a division of dense, small lots relying upon private wells and often old cesspools or make-shift, on-site septic systems. These systems impede safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for our neighbors. Further, these systems cannot provide protection from broader contamination from prior industrial or commercial uses in the watershed. North Westport residents have long suffered with having to use bottled water for drinking, mucky wet backyards most springs, living with a single bathroom for a family, unable to expand their homes, and are now facing $25,000 - $50,000 upgrades of failed wastewater systems to meet today’s standards. Businesses and churches with “public water supplies” (larger service wells) are now facing the new PFAS chemicals threat and having to install expensive treatment systems.

The collective costs of these individual expenditures will be significantly larger than the common solution of public water and sewer systems. The proposed water and sewer system solves these problems. It is a proper public purpose to invest tax dollars into developing a needed water and sewer system. Providing its citizens with safe drinking water, healthful neighborhoods and protecting the broader environment are among the essential purposes of government.

There will be voices that say the Town is not ready… betterment policies, connection fees, a sewer enterprise fund, etc., exist only in draft forms, and the Select Board is not really equipped to act as sewer and water commissioners. Some of that is true, but the Town has time to implement these steps. What the Town does not have time to do is waste the opportunity to

seize and use the available federal infrastructure monies which must be committed or lost by the end of 2026.

If the no taxes and not ready voices prevail in the upcoming elections, the needs will not go away, nor will the threat of State action making the Town act go away. The Westport River is still a federally listed impaired waterway, and the Town has an absolute requirement to meet the EPA/DEP TMDL limits for nitrogen and bacteria in the river. Once the current enforcement actions on Cape towns are complete, the Town will face the same compliance actions, and we’ll have to face implementing the same solutions we have now at hand, but with 50, 60 or 100% increase in costs and no large slug of federal funds to pursue.

It truly is a public investment whose time has come.

Bob Daylor


Daylor is vice chairman of the Westport Planning Board and the Infrastructure Oversight Committee

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