Joining sides in sewer pact dispute

Our View

03/03/2005

It isn't difficult to determine who is on which side in the dispute between Taunton and Raynham over use of the Taunton Wastewater Treatment Plant.

If you live in Raynham, you believe that the town continues as a "partner" and can continue to send its sewer effluent to the treatment plant. 

If you live in Taunton, you are convinced that a new contract with Raynham means that the town is a user, not a partner, and that Taunton is justified in determining its future needs before allocating additional capacity to Raynham, which has reached its limit of 600,000 gallons under the prior contract.

The negotiations, which have been conducted privately, have yet to reach the name-calling stage and hopefully they never will. This should not be a repeat of the often-acrimonious disagreement between Raynham and Bridgewater over school spending, a dispute that has left the regional school district seeing its high school placed on probation.

A review of history shows that Taunton was ordered by the state in the early 1970s to build a new wastewater treatment plant, which it did. In Raynham, the Taunton River was being polluted with the growth of the Route 44 commercial strip. There was similar pollution in North Dighton where the former Mount Hope Finishing Co., as well as homes that were built on streets around the company, had sewer disposal pipes running directly into the river.

The state directed that Taunton, Raynham and North Dighton reach an agreement sending sewage from the two towns to Taunton's new plant for treatment. The agreement was viewed as a form of partnership. To its credit, Raynham proceeded to sewer nearly the entire town via overrides approved by taxpayers. Taunton now reasons that Raynham received the disposal service at a market discount, not necessarily as a part owner of the plant.

Raynham now is at its designated capacity at the treatment plant and wants to continue to use the plant and the town wants to hook-up the only section that has yet be sewered. Taunton cannot afford to accept more effluent until it has completed a master plan for sewer service that will estimate how much capacity Taunton will need in the future. The city's critical problem is failed septic systems in environmental sensitive areas of the city.

Taunton hasn't stopped Raynham from installing new mains, pending a new agreement on the treatment plant. Raynham can lay as much pipe as it needs and then be ready to pump into Taunton's system under a new contract, which should be ready early this summer. Taunton is sticking by a moratorium on accepting additional effluent until it determines the city's needs. By all standards, that seems reasonable.


ŠThe Taunton Gazette 2005