Sewers are the new schools

Content warning: I live in Island Park. Some readers feel that my regular posts are biased. I just want everyone to know that when I talk about this issue, they really ARE.

In a 90-minute Town Hall meeting tonight, the Portsmouth Town Council, and about 20 citizens, heard the final report from wastewater consultants Woodard & Curran and grilled representatives from RI DEM. While nothing was decided, the Council voiced considerable skepticism at the assertions from both the consultants and the State that sewering the North end of town was the only viable solution. The question returned repeatedly to the data.

"We're acting on guesses," said Council President Dennis Canario. "Can you say with complete certainty that sewers are the only way to solve the problem?" The acronym-rich alternative is Individual Sewage Disposal Systems (ISDS) commonly, septic systems, watched over by a Wastewater Management District (WMD).

The main focus of discussion was the areas around Portsmouth Park and Island Park. At issue is DEM testing data that shows offshore water quality within acceptable limits. However, testing at storm drain outflows revealed fecal coliform counts an order of magnitude high. To the consultants from Woodard & Curran, that led inevitably to sewers.

"You can't tell whether it's one house or ten," said Mike Schrader of W&C. You could fix system after system, until you got to what he called "the last house," before knowing you really had solved the problem. And even then, he noted, you could have required homeowners to spend $25-30K on individual septic systems, only to end up needing sewers in the end. "Do they want to take the roulette chance?"

"But what could take us off the path of continuous improvement?" Jim Seveney wanted to know. "That's something all voters will ask, especially those who will never see a hookup at their house."

Jay Manning from RI DEM responded. "You are not changing the volume of what's going into the groundwater." Even the best septic systems are still dependent on the underlying soils. So while individual septic systems could reduce fecal coliform counts at the outflows, they might not solve the problem.

And there's the nut of the issue. The town council could require the citizens of the North end of Portsmouth, collectively, to spend in excess of $20M on individual septic systems, with no guarantee that the state wouldn't walk the shore off Park Avenue and find excessive bacteria in the outflow.

As Angelo Liberti of DEM said, "To support shellfishing, [the EPA] need[s] both [offshore] quality and no outfall. If you replace 60% of the systems with sand filters, if you spend that money and fixed those systems, would the numbers come up clean?"

Councilor Katzman raised a fairly forseeable hypothetical. Suppose the Town went to a bond issue on sewers and the voters rejected it. Would the DEM accept a WMD, knowing that they felt it an unacceptable solution.

"We've never run into that situation," said Liberti. "We would be in a very difficult position."

Well guess what, Angelo. We're in it, and up to our noses. The chattering zombies of the PCC were there tonight to voice their opposition to sewers, and you can just imagine the hellstorm of spontaneous, unprompted taxpayer rage they'll unleash should the Council dare to put a bond issue on the ballot. If the rhetoric around sewers is sounding vaguely familiar (let's see...a group of people feeling that they shouldn't pay for a public good that only part of the community uses) then you'll be happy to know that you're not alone, and the Citizens Against Virtually Everything got there first.

The PCC trotted out Liz Pietro to get up at the mike and recite the list of businesses on West Main Road, as a warning to those who would sewer Island Park. No, I mean it. Seriously. That's literally what she did. She started at Oliphant and would still be going if Canario hadn't cut her off. As if McDonald's (West Main elevation, about 170) is going to replace Flo's at 6 feet above Mean High Tide. I evacuated during Bob and my mother lived through '38 in the Park. Don't pretend that the risk management team at any corporate HQ is going to roll those dice.

Want my bet? They're going to run her, and Gene Love, next fall. This whole "fix the town sound system" is a wonderful opportunity to provide face time for Gene "13th in a field of 15" Love. And tonight was a nice low-stress way to give Liz some Council podium time.

I have to admit, her riff did have a kind of nostalgic 1950's beat coffeehouse thing happening. You're sipping espresso in a dimly lit room, she takes the stage — haloed by a pinspot and wearing a raspberry beret — and announces her poem, "Total Development Potential." She then begins reading, with dreadful earnestness: "McDonalds. Benny's. Shop-n-wash. The Dollar Store. GNC." She tilts down her shades, looks significantly around the room. "Rent-a-Center. Stop N Shop." (pause for finger snaps) "Kentucky Fried Chicken...."

Meeting was continued to Thursday April 26 at 6:30.


I have really enjoyed your lively posts of the last few days. It's nice to log on in the morning and listen to the wacky doings of these fictional characters in their theatre of the absurd. You are a writer who really has character development down pat! What is your technique? Post-its all over the walls? A story board? Or is it some kind of character trait randomizer program set to "nut job"?

What's that you say? These are real people and you're not making this up? Oh. Well, then, in the memorable words of Emily Litella - never mind.


P.S. Keep it coming!

Hi, english...
Thanks for the supportive words. I took a writing class with Vonda McIntyre, a wonderful science fiction writer, and she told a story about a fan who approached her at a signing. This person had read one of Vonda's books, set on another planet, and wanted to compliment her on her accuracy. The aliens talk to me too, she said. And they told me all the same things. Gently, Vonda said that she did not in fact talk to any aliens. But then, asked the fan, somewhat shocked, how do you know all these things? Replied Vonda, "I make them up."

I just wish I could say the same.


Off-topic comment removed. You can read Stormie's response in the thread following the School Committee.

Note: This is not censorship; this is standard discussion hygiene. Please post comments where relevant.

I apologize for putting in the wrong comment box.

that shit runs down hill!
As far as bacteria, and polution, all you have to do is walk the river along the point...try to find anything that is alive anymore! Many years ago it was abundant with LIVE horseshoe crabs, clams,mussels, starfish...etc..Now everything is as dead as an old mans penis.
Also the dogs used to love to take a long cool swim during the summer, I know of a few who have tumors on their skin, no surprise to me,or the local Vet.
As kids we used to be able to dig clams, bring them home, and cook them up, if you attempted that now I'am sure you would never survive,Or at the very least wish you hadn't!
Check out on any given day what washes up on the shoreline, syringes, used feminine products of all kinds,used rubbers(to name only a few)...just nasty!
Does anyone care? Helloooo is there anyone out there???

Hi, Stormie...
Appreciate your post, but can't see what you're really advocating, other than questioning the virility of senior citizens, which is probably not a position the PCC wants to get behind.

At an abstract level, I take it from your comments that you would be in favor of whatever solution would ensure cleaner water for all of us, and on this, I'm happy to say that we agree on something.


Are you implying that ALL of the "PCC" are old farts? I'am not a card carrying member of any of the letter groups. I'am just another tax paying, concerned citizen, of the town I have lived in my whole life. And fyi I'am not anywhere near senior citizen age yet, but hopefully I will be able to stay here long enough to be that lucky!
I'am advocating that you should really far as the eyes can SEA! take a good look around you. So many problems, and so much time wasted!
Just curious...have you taken your Viagra today?
Sorry if I have stepped on anyones uumm ego?

Hi, Stormie...
Never said anything about the age of PCC membership -- my point was that I don't think they want their position associated with the implicit critique of senior sexual performance in your original post.

Regarding "so many problems, and so much time wasted," I'm going have to ask you, once again, to be specific. We can't solve problems at the abstract level. Point to something concrete.


Oh I see ...and speaking of "position associated with".... how is this for a comment (your own words) "Skeletor" McIntyre's performance was unconscionable. In his questioning, he managed to mention that they were from "Brown," "Democracy Matters," the "Green Party," and the "Progressive Party." If any of that is germane to the goal of having publicly financed elections, I'm happy to hear it Peter. Unless you have such evidence, shut the fuck up".
Really nice language there huh? Once again you are proving that it is OK as long as YOU are saying it! This is why you will not get many readers...You are a true legend in your own mind...dream on!

I have pointed to many issues, and problems. Take your blinders off, and see it for what it is.
First off...Try beginning at the beginning...and stop blaming everything on the tent meeting, ya know that excuse has become so old, so lame now...You only want to focus on everything post tent meeting, and not what was going on prior to,and leading to its causes. Which does not surprise me, but boggles the mind that you can blame so much on a tent meeting, and you have repeated it so much that you have actually convinced yourself.
I will say it again...So many problems,and so much time wasted!
You can't begin to "solve problems" at any"level"...until you stop repeating the same problems over, and over, again. And until you are willing to listen to the community as a whole! Your memory seems to be very selective.


Dear Stormie...
I'm sorry to see you go, but I fear we would have talked past each other forever. You mistake the symptom for the disease, and for this you are not wholly responsible, since there are lots of folks eager to pull the wool over your eyes.

So if the PCC apologist's new spin is "the tent is old hat," well, let's examine that frame. Cui bono? Not you, Stormie, and not me, and not the majority of the people of Portsmouth, who were run through a wringer for $62 bucks, and no, I do not intend to let people forget that.

But you, Stormie...for you? I'd advise the blue pill.


{{{{big YAWN}}}}





Hi, MadDogIslander...
I know you have good intentions, but please, let's not be mean. Remember — no matter where you go... there you are.

There are some people in Common Fence Point — it is a matter of public record — whose valuations have climbed precipitously for properties that do not seem to be worth that. There are folks in my neighborhood, Island Park, who are uneasy about what this year's reval might do to them.

I'll tell you. I don't live beyond my means. I've got a 900-square-foot cottage. And if it got revalued at four or five times the current level, yeah, I might be as pissed as Stormie.

I have no problem with telling Yuppie-wanna-bes to bugger off. But I share Stormie's concern that there are real human beings who could get taxed out of their homes. And we should be mindful of that difference.