Dukes County awards $1.4 million for septic upgrades

Dukes County Commissioners approved a $1.44 million allocation to island cities to reduce nitrogen pollution.

The funds will be used for the modernization of sewage treatment plants with denitrification systems.

Each city will receive a portion of the funds that will be used to subsidize the cost of upgrading nitrogen abatement systems and/or reimburse homeowners who have already installed them.

“This will have a direct impact on nitrogen pollution and the health of all our island ponds, water quality and beaches,” Commissioner Peter Wharton said during Wednesday’s session.

District officers have worked to manage and distribute more than $3 million allocated to the district in 2021 through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The federal funds distributed through ARPA provide relief to eligible local and state organizations to support communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commission responsible for distributing these funds has been working on the management process for almost two years.

The Commission’s task was to decide on the most effective and helpful allocation of funds, and to narrow down specific recipients and initiatives so that the roughly $3 million could flow as widely as possible. To ensure this, a working group of commissioners developed criteria for applying for the awards.

Martha’s Vineyard Airport and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission have both previously received portions of funding for wastewater management projects.

Through discussions with the Attorney General’s Office, Office of the Inspector General, the DCC’s Attorney, and other entities on the island, the county was able to complete its remaining distributions.

Wharton noted that the grant program provides not only the ability to reimburse funds already spent by homeowners, but also to actually “pre-forward” and “pre-fund” individual homeowners’ septic tank upgrade and installation.

“It’s a really hard impact and a real benefit that the county is bringing to homeowners on this island,” he said. “I’m excited… This is huge.”

Commissioner Don Leopold agreed, “As district commissioner, this is the most exciting thing we’ve ever done,” he said, as the completion of the ARPA distribution plan “represents significant value to the island through collaboration with others.” [entities].”

However, he noted, “It’s not going to mean anything if we don’t implement it.”

Last week, Tisbury officials discussed the city’s interim wastewater management plan, which is estimated to reduce nitrogen pollution by more than 4,000 kilograms a year. The core of this program was the modernization of existing sewage treatment plants.

Water Resources Advisor Scott Horsley told city officials that Tisbury alone will need about 700 systems to be upgraded over the next two decades.

He estimates that upgrading an existing Title 5 system will likely cost $37,047. A complete modernization of both the septic tank and the leach field would cost approximately $49,000.

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