Andrew Gottlieb Outlines Process For Exploring Wastewater District Concept
By: Michael C. Bailey
As far as Barnstable County Commissioner William Doherty is concerned, when it comes to the issue of wastewater management on Cape Cod, “the time for action is long overdue.”
That is why the Barnstable County Board of County Commissioners recently charged Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Cape Cod Water Protection Collaborative, and Paul J. Niedzwiecki, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission, with exploring a possible, if somewhat controversial, way to finally take action.
This week Mr. Gottlieb presented to the commissioners an overview of his and Mr. Niedzwiecki’s upcoming work on crafting a regional wastewater plan. That overview was drafted by Mr. Gottlieb, working with the water protection collaborative’s governing board and steering committee.
“The assumption that’s in this document and guides the whole thing is that as a region we have a water quality problem in our estuaries,” Mr. Gottlieb said, “and that we have an obligation—and I don’t care whether you view that as a legal,
moral, or economic obligation—as a region we have an obligation to deal with the problem.
“That’s the only thing that’s assumed in this document,” he continued. “There’s no assumption in here about the outcome of the analysis; there’s no assumption about which is going to be the best, most cost-effective way to proceed.”
The county commissioners specifically charged Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Niedzwiecki with exploring a recommendation from the Special Commission on County Governance to create what was initially dubbed a “Cape Cod wastewater authority.”
This was later amended to “wastewater district,” although the basics remained the same; the entity would be responsible for executing and overseeing a regional wastewater management plan and could have the authority to generate revenue through taxation.
However, the organization’s exact scope, composition, powers, administrative structure, and mission are the details Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Niedzwiecki will attempt to puzzle out over the next several months, with extensive input from the public.
Mr. Gottlieb refuted claims that the creation of this regional entity was already a done deal. “A lot of people sort of jumped to the conclusion that this is a process to bless an answer that’s already been derived,” he said. “That’s never been the case [although] there’s been some corners that have sort of already decided what we’re going to conclude…they’ve sort of set up their straw man and are very busy knocking it down.”
“I’ve already made a conclusion,” Mr. Doherty said. “We’re going to solve the problem. We’re going to do something.”
The process will include a cost analysis of a regionalized approach versus a town-by-town approach so when the process moves into the outreach phase, Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Niedzwiecki have “some facts and numbers that will allow the region to have a fact-based conversation about which alternative is best.”
Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Niedzwiecki plan to report back to the commissioners on their progress on a quarterly basis until they submit their final report, which they expect to file at the end of the year.
Along the way, they plan to hold several public meetings that will offer presentations by the collaborative, followed immediately by discussions with any members of the public in attendance.
“The objective of this approach is to provide opportunities for broad input as issues are being considered,” Mr. Gottlieb wrote in his overview, “not at the end of the process when a proposed alternative has been developed.”
Mr. Gottlieb said meetings will be videotaped and posted online along with any relevant documents. That material will be available through the Cape Cod Water Protection Collaborative website at www.ccwpc.org or www.capekeepers.org.