Falmouth MA to vote on 2.2m for Sewage Alternatives Research

April 21, 2011
Mathew Lippincott writes: In what may be a watershed moment for alternatives to centralized, piped sewage, The Selectmen of the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts have voted to put on the town ballot a referendum to limit sewer planning costs to $500,000 and spend the rest of the sewer planning budget investigating alternatives to sewers, including composting toilets and marine aquaculture.  We at PHLUSH are cautiously optimistic that the voters of Falmouth will approve the funds needed for effort, and applaud all involved, especially the event behind this stunning shift: The Eco-Toilet Summit.

Organized by Earle Barnhart and Hilde Maingay of the Green Center and moderated by State Representative Matt Patrick, the Eco-Toilet Summit presented talks on the current problems facing Falmouth, the problems of sewers, and potential alternatives and their benefits.  Although ecology was central, the summit focused on issues of usability, quality of life, jobs, and expenses. As Matt Patrick has said, sewers are “unfunded mandates that will economically devastate communities.” With the town potentially facing $300 million in sewer construction costs, people were ready to listen, and four out of the town’s five Selectmen were present.  Earle Barnhart summarized the event this way:  

We had about 150 people, who all sat in rapt attention during the whole thing.  I think that part of its impact was that virtually all the information presented was absolutely new to everyone there… it was intellectually very eye-opening to most people.   Some kind of social/psychic release happened that had a great impact that day and since.

The whole event was run on a shoe string budget, relying on lots of communications and outreach by Hilde, and diagrams and research by Earle.  And it worked!  The Board of Selectmen invited Earle and Hilde to present basic information from the summit on local public TV, and by the time of the Town Meeting a coalition had formed strong enough to propose that the vast majority of sewer funding be diverted to researching alternatives.  The measure passed without one opposing vote.

Earle and Hilde have subsequently made presentations to Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts EPA office, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, seeking support in the special permissions they will inevitably need to pursue sewer alternatives.

We are awed by this example, and hope to see a similar movement grow here in Portland.  Although we have nothing as spectacular as the Eco-Toilet Summit planned, feel free to join us for a free dinner at 7pm on May 4th to discuss the issues.  RSVP to Molly.

Learn more:

Earle Barnhart’s Presentation from the Eco-Toilets Summit

“Eco-Toilet Summit Highlights Alternatives to Sewering”

Re-thinking “Waste”  The Cape Cod Eco-Toilet Summit at East Falmouth Elementary explored alternatives to sewering

Photos from the Eco-Toilet Summit

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One Response to Falmouth MA to vote on 2.2m for Sewage Alternatives Research

  1. […] I just got a great report back from Earle Barnhart of the Green Center on the Eco-Toilets Summit that he and Hilde Maingay organized.  What a glowing success!  You can read about it on this guest post I did for PHLUSH. […]

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Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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