Plans were unveiled this week for a new leaching field near the wastewater treatment plant off Pennsylvania avenue in Oak Bluffs. Plans for the site, known as the Leonardo property, call for two open sand pits to be built approximately 160 feet wide by 160 feet long.
Drawn by environmental engineers Stearns and Wheleer, the plans show two separate leaching beds with a four-foot wide gravel walkway in between surrounded by a chain-link fence. Treated effluent would be pumped directly from the wastewater treatment plant.
The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, which regulates and permits leaching fields for treated effluent, held a public hearing at the town wastewater plant on Wednesday. The hearing was attended by wastewater superintendent Joe Alosso, town administrator Michael Dutton, superintendent of schools Dr. James H. Weiss and members of the wastewater commission and water district commission.
Martha’s Vineyard Commission water resource planner Bill Wilcox said the new leaching fields would allow the town to connect more homes and businesses to the town sewer and reduce the number of septic systems in use, and subsequently reduce the amount of nitrogen loading into the Island’s coastal ponds.
“I personally think that wastewater collection and treatment is crucial for addressing nitrogen issues along our coastal areas . . . overall I think this is a good plan,” he said.
The wastewater commission recently voted to repair a series of leaching beds beneath Ocean Park at an estimated cost of $400,000 in order to comply with a consent order from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The order was issued after treated effluent was found seeping to the park surface during an inspection last summer.
Repairing the leaching beds will allow the town to lift a self-imposed moratorium on new sewer hookups, thereby clearing the way for Islandwide facilities, including the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and the new YMCA building to connect to the town sewer system.
Although the town will repair the leaching beds at Ocean Park, the long-term plan is to divert a majority of the wastewater flow to the new open sand pits at the Leonardo property, Mr. Alosso said. The town will still use the leaching beds at Ocean Park for overflow and future expansion of the sewer system, which will allow for additional hookups over time, he said.
Nicholas Zavolas, an analyst for MEPA, said the new leaching field at the Leonardo property will give the town added flexibility. “I don’t think you want to close down Ocean Park, you don’t want to give up those beds. But if you have two sites you will have options as you move forward,” he said.
Mr. Alosso noted that the Leonardo property is in a different discharge zone than Ocean Park, meaning the town will need to meet a higher groundwater discharge standard, which will require modifications at the treatment plant. The modifications are expected to cost between $750,000 and $1 million, he said.