After receiving a notice of noncompliance from the state last month confirming that treated effluent is seeping to the surface at Ocean Park, the Oak Bluffs wastewater commission has agreed to hire an environmental engineering firm to begin work on additional leaching beds at a new site adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant.
The commission at a recent meeting voted to hire the engineering firm of Stearns & Wheler to begin site work at the property along Pennsylvania avenue formerly known as the Leonardo property. Engineers will perform groundwater modeling and prepare design and permitting work to place additional leaching fields on the approximately five-acre parcel.
The move is seen as a first step in moving some or all of the leaching beds now buried under Ocean Park.
Wastewater superintendent Joseph Alosso appeared before selectmen at their regular meeting on Tuesday to provide a timeline of the problems at Ocean Park and to give a brief summary of the new plans for the Leonardo property.
Mr. Alosso also asked for and received permission from selectmen to consult with town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport about the ongoing problems at the park, including a possible investigation into whether the town can recoup some of the engineering costs associated with the installation of the effluent beds that have failed to perform.
Although the decision to authorize Mr. Alosso to consult with town counsel came without dissent, it did come with a measure of acrimony between himself and selectman Kerry Scott.
Ms. Scott, who has clashed with Mr. Alosso in the past, took aim at the timetable he provided. She said it failed to provide a complete and accurate picture of the problems at the park, noting that she sounded the alarm about flooding at Ocean Park in 2004 — not in September of 2005, as reported in the timeline.
“This timeline is helpful, but it is inaccurate,” she said.
Mr. Alosso also took exception to Ms. Scott’s suggestion that he failed to keep selectmen informed of the problems at Ocean Park. He said he had several discussions about the problems with all the selectmen, with the exception of Ms. Scott.
“Kerry, you can criticize me all you want. But you and I have never had one discussion about Ocean Park. You never asked me about Ocean Park; you never asked my staff about Ocean Park; you never asked any of the wastewater commissioners about Ocean Park. I do communicate with the selectmen. If you choose not to participate that’s fine,” he said.
“I am not going to go tit-for-tat with you, Joe,” Ms. Scott shot back. “But I think this was very poorly done. The reason the wastewater commission and plant manager were invited to so many selectmen’s meetings over the last three years is because I wanted to communicate with you. I feel this is the place where I can communicate effectively,” she said.
Mr. Alosso said it remains unclear clear what caused the flooding at Ocean Park, but he said he still believes the irrigation system was at least partially responsible. “I don’t think it’s all of the problem . . . I think it may be less than 50 per cent of the problem,” he said.
According to the timeline provided to selectmen, in June of 2007 the wastewater department received notice that 115,000 gallons of water were being used on certain days to irrigate the park. The report states that Mark Crossland, owner of Crossland Landscaping, provided a watering schedule last month showing that 40,000 gallons of water a day are used to water the park.
Contacted by telephone this week, Mr. Crossland said the maximum amount of water used at Ocean Park a day was around 36,000 gallons, and the amount never came close to 115,000 gallons a day. He said the park was only watered on seven days during August and on two days in September.
Mr. Crossland also cited data from the town wastewater district indicating the amount of water used at the park has decreased since 2002, the first year he took over the job of park irrigation. In 2002 the amount used was just over eight million gallons, which dropped to 3.68 million in 2004 and 1.9 million in 2004.
Although the amount increased to an average of 4.1 million gallons in 2005 and 2006, the combined two-year total for 2007 and 2008 is around 2.65 million — averaging out to approximately 1.13 million gallons for each of the past two years.
Mr. Crossland said the amount of water used is not nearly enough to cause pooling, and he dismissed the notion that irrigation is causing the problem.
“The numbers don’t add up. They never have. Some people keep insisting the irrigation is causing the flooding, but all you have to do is walk down there and look for your own eyes . . . you can see the sand from the effluent beds coming to the surface. It’s obvious to me what is causing the pooling . . . it should be obvious to everyone,” Mr. Crossland said.
Town administrator Michael Dutton said yesterday it was premature to discuss the recovery of engineering costs associated with the work done at the park, although he did not rule it out. But he said the emerging plan to relocate the leaching beds to alternative locations like the Leonardo property seems to make sense. “I think it’s safe to say that’s the direction we are going in,” he said.