The 'whats' and 'whys' of the proposed $12.5 million treatment plant

Apr 09, 2017

A proposed $12.5 million treatment plant has raised a lot of questions for Wareham water customers. On Monday, voters will have a final say at the annual district meeting, set for 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium. For those just tuning into the issue, here’s a primer.

Why is the Water Department asking for a $12.5 million treatment plant?

Mostly to address high levels of naturally occurring iron and manganese in the aquifer, which is where the department draws your drinking water. Too much iron in the water supply causes discoloration. High levels of manganese causes health problems.

Should I be worried about iron and manganese in my water?

According to Wareham Water Department Superintendent Andrew Reid “no.” The department is treating the water now using a solution that, while effective now, isn’t viable long term. The new plant, officials say, will provide a permanent solution.

$12.5 million seems expensive. Aren’t there less costly options. Is this necessary?

After reviewing information from the district’s engineering firm Kleinfelder, it was determined that a plant costing between $9 million and $18 million was required to treat the problem. Officials said building a plant for less would not properly address the issue. As to whether or not it’s needed, Reid notes if levels aren’t lowered, the state will likely force the district to solve the problem in the future.

If I vote “yes” what happens to my bill?

It will increase. Reid says the average customer (someone who uses 53,100 gallons of water every six months) will pay an additional $72. Currently, the average bill is $300. The department sends out bills, which are usage based, twice a year

Why is the department asking for an additional $5.5 million for “treatment?”

The $5.5 million request will only be voted on if the new plant is approved. This asks voters if they want a system in the new plant that would prevent chemicals found in pesticides, fuel additives, defoliants and other compounds from entering the water supply.

Where are these chemicals coming from?

Officials said the chemicals are most likely coming from agricultural activities taking place at nearby cranberry bogs.

Should I be worried?

Officials say no. The levels found are well below state limits. That said, the department tests for the chemicals infrequently as a robust testing program would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. By installing this system, a physical barrier would be in place to prevent chemicals from entering the water supply in the event of a spill. Also, while levels are low now that may change.

What happens to my bill if this is approved?

Again, it would increase. If both the treatment plant and this system are approved the average bill would increase by $108.

Shouldn’t whoever is responsible for putting those chemicals in the ground be held accountable?

The department has reached out to cranberry growers to help with the cost of the treatment plant and system. It has not yet received a response.

What if I want to find out more?

The Wareham Water District has a comprehensive document on its website ( that answers a variety of questions regarding both projects.

Comments (8)
Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 09, 2017 20:32

I suggest that before we are forced to spend 18 million dollars to treat water contaminated by the activity of others the Water department do something other than waiting patiently for a response. All options to get the offending party or parties to pay for this should be exhausted before even a dime is asked for or voted on. This is absurd! Next it will be some other activity that creates another problem and needs another treatment plant. Vote NO!!!!


Posted by: Steve Holmes | Apr 10, 2017 09:30

Any bets on how many people show up tonight? I am guessing about 130.

Posted by: Kress | Apr 10, 2017 10:00



Posted by: Kress | Apr 10, 2017 10:03



Posted by: Kress | Apr 10, 2017 10:03


Posted by: Kress | Apr 10, 2017 10:27


Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 10, 2017 10:47

In the end, attendance tonight depends upon whether people have taken time to fully consider: 1) water quality issues  2) personal cost (if it's a concern)  based upon their own water consumption rather than an "average" cost quote and  3) whether or not people have taken the time to consider the budget increase proposed by the fire department and the reasons for the budget increase.


One thing people won't be able to claim tomorrow and in the months and years ahead, is that they didn't have sufficient notice regarding tonight's Water District/Fire District Meeting and the important votes which it will include. The District and local media have provided in depth coverage of the issues and have done an excellent job keeping the date of tonight's meeting, and the importance of the meeting very much in the public's mind.

Posted by: Kress | Apr 10, 2017 11:37

Thinking about the nitrogen reducing aspect of this Treatment Facility.  While I support the future construction of a Treatment Facility, I would suggest opposing it at this time until 1. the issue of nitrogen pollution can be rightfully apportioned and, 2) the method of payment for nitrogen reduction can been properly assessed.  As proposed, this completely absolves cranberry bog owners of any responsibility and relieves them of any payment for a problem they created.  Cranberry bogs are not responsible for natural occurring elements like manganese, so the Treatment Facility might be needed.   But tacking on a nitrogen-reducing system and making Wareham Water Users pay for it is unfair.



With regard to nitrogen, there's a PROBLEM and a SOURCE. The Problem is nitrogen in Wareham's drinking water.  The Source is water runoff from nitrogen-filled fertilizer used in cranberry bogs.  The connection: cranberry bogs.  The victim:  Wareham Water Users.



Further, this ONE SOURCE has created a PROBLEM for the TWO VICTIMS -- humans and fish and sea life.



SOURCE:  Cranberry bogs.

PROBLEM:  Contaminated water.

VICTIMS:  Humans and Fish/Sea Life.



Get this:  The Treatment Facility gives cranberry bog owners a free skate on the clean up issue affecting humans and sea life.   No money out of their pockets, even though they have victimized both.  And, nothing like making the two victims pay for being victimized twice.  First with dirty water then with the cost of cleaning up the dirty water (financially for humans and death for fish and shellfish).



Why aren't we resolving the PROBLEM at the SOURCE, not after the Source creates the Problem?  It's like treating the symptom and not the underlying disease.  As the Source, Cranberry bog owners need to accept the responsibility for creating the Problem.  Not shift the financial and ethical burden onto Wareham taxpayers.

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