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We spent part of Thursday afternoon with Phil Pickering touring the present Ogunquit Sewer plant and seeing the problems they are dealing with and their need to find office space.

Given that the OSD is not planning to move to another site in the near future, the easy choice of course since our conservation commission mission is to protect the dunes, is to just say no to the OSD’s wish to build an office building adjacent to their current site. That back part of the dune, by the way, may not be not quite 40 years old, since it seems part of the dike system built back in the 70s; the trees there were planted by the sewer district and the sewer district plans to plant trees to replace them.

Of course our sewer district does more than its part for supporting the Conservation Commission’s other missions: to ensure clean water, a clean beach, clean waterways and clean wetlands, dealing with about a million gallons of sewage and gray water a day and producing some 7,000 pounds of sludge each day.

An office is a necessity, since the machinery must be raised to meet new ocean rise standards and current offices will disappear. Some of the current offices are jammed into stairwells and the basement pump area; the last update to the facility was almost a quarter century ago.

The current plan would be to take 80’ of the man made dune just north of their site down to their access road for their building that would be about 40’ X 40’.  The Maine DEP has approved the OSD’s building site.

We had thought that this structure – one that they are now considering to be modular – could easily be placed on the Moody parking lot.

This parking lot though is prone to flooding. The building would have to be raised 7’ anyway with a foundation built beneath it. The town would lose the revenue from about 25 parking places at currently $20 a slot, or about $500/day for each beach day in a season, say 50 beach days – a loss at current rates of $25,000/year for the next 25 years, assuming parking fees will not be raised.

However, these offices are mainly for a limited staff spending time in both what will be a raised current facility as well as in their offices; there seems to be a lot of back and forth from plant to office since the staff often doubles in various capacities, and to have this small staff walk from a  parking lot office site to deal with the machinery in snow, ice and rain and back to their offices to deal with customers, with the many deliveries of chemicals and other necessities, and with necessary office work is not a sound fix, .

The environmental engineers have estimated the OSD’s current site will have to be moved in 25 years; they also estimate about 10 years later the dunes will be inundated.

The Devil’s Choice, then, is that there is no good choice between limited options. Do we protect this man made dune? Or do we allow the sewer district its small building necessitated by new federal regulations?

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