All Things Dennis Port

Two years ago the Chapter H Regulatory Relief effort for Dennis Port Village Center came to a screeching halt with the Commission staff position that “due to wastewater infrastructure limitations in the impaired Swan and Herring River watersheds, only Village Center parcels within the Nantucket Sound watershed would be eligible for Chapter H threshold relief. “ (email from Ryan Bennett dated 7/10/2013).

These watersheds are illustrated on the map below:


It would appear that “wastewater infrastructure” equated to waste water loads and ultimately perceived nitrogen loading.

We had all the other issues addressed but were informed that the staff could not support increasing waste water flow within the two impaired watersheds. “Waste water flow” is associated with nitrogen loading. The discussions circled around whether, by supporting increased investment in this area, would there be improvements needed to off-set the waste water increases.

Perhaps there was mis-communication on both sides. Ultimately the Commission staff took the position that increased waste water equaled increased nitrogen loading. Not being completely versed on waste water, I was ill prepared to counter this arguement. However, it seems that there was no consideration for technology enhancements that reinvestment could support. Now I am trying to take this to a step that will resolve this impasse, according to the Dennis Board of Health the entire village center has a high water table, thus, as noted on page 39 of the 2011 submittal the entire area will be subject to a 5 ppm nitrogen loading restriction:

“The Dennis Board of Health considers areas with less than 6 feet to groundwater to be an environmentally sensitive area and requires waste water facilities on these sites to meet Technical Bulletin 91-001 nitrogen loading standards. As such, current town policies already require properties not within the DRI thresholds to meet regional standards.”

Given the Board of Health’s commitment to the higher standards of nitrogen loading in this district for all development and redevelopment, there should have been no problem getting past the waste water hurdle. Looking at the Buzzards Bay Project nitrogen loading calculator (, the following conclusions can be arrived at relative to nitrogen loading, even with the higher waste water flow levels:

Total Flow Existing 104,541.4 gallons per day
Total Flow Full Build-out 246,387.6 gallons per day

Total Nitrogen Loading Existing at 35 ppm (town estimate) 5,055 kg/year
Total Nitrogen Loading Existing at 26.25 ppm (Buzzards Bay Program Title 5 estimate) 3,791 kg/year

Total Full Build-out Nitrogen Loading at 5 ppm 1,702 kg/year

Basically, the conclusion would be that, by promoting redevelopment of this area, and bringing septic systems up to the 5 ppm standards for environmentally sensitive areas, not only does the area meet the Commission standard for no net increase in nitrogen to the impaired watersheds, we reduce total nitrogen loading, even with a 135% increase in waste water flow.

From the beginning, the goal of regulatory relief for this area has been to provide property owners with the incentive to reinvest in their properties and the appropriate infrastructure to support the uses on those properties. The town’s request to increase the regional review thresholds in this area from 10,000 sf to 15,000 sf for commercial space and up to 30 units/45 bedrooms for mixed use projects with a residential component is below the full-build-out capability of the Village Center re-zoning, but the analysis actually suggests that, even full build-out could be supported for regulatory relief.

While I have approached the Commission regarding using the new fRED model to move the regulatory relief forward, we might not need to delve into whether fRED provides an avenue for completing the Dennis Port Village Center Chapter H relief request. We need agreement on the fact that the analysis supports a reduction in nitrogen loading with the requested regulatory relief.


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