Plans to build a berm around the Hull Wastewater Treatment Facility at 1111 Nantasket Ave. to protect the plant from storm flooding, and at the same time to help screen it from the neighbors, are at the 75 percent design stage. The progress is due to a coastal resilience grant from the state Office of Coastal Zone Management.
The Sewer Department hosted a virtual meeting recently to allow an opportunity for public input and to build awareness of, and support for, the project. It is one of several measures that have been taken or are planned to mitigate flood risk.
“The goal is to protect the facility from coastal flooding while taking into account climate change and projected [increasing] sea-level rise, using a green infrastructure,” Assistant Director of Wastewater Operations Brian Kiely said.
Hull is particularly vulnerable to damage from rising sea level and flooding associated with severe storms, especially Nor’easters, and the situation is expected to worsen as the town faces storms of even greater severity in the future.
“Since 1999, Hull has experienced 22 natural hazards that triggered federal or state disaster declarations,” Kiely said. “The NFIP [National Flood Insurance Program] has paid out more than $15 million to policyholders in town for flood-related property damages since 1978. This underscores the need for this resiliency project.”
A 2013 storm caused $7 million in damages from which the facility has not completely recovered. In addition, storms in January and February of 2018 caused extensive flooding of the plant.
The three potential flood pathways are the nearby wetland, Hull bay, and overwash from the ocean.
Duke Bitsko, a landscape architect with the Hatch firm, is working on this coastal resiliency design plan with the Woods Hole Group, a Falmouth-based environmental and engineering consulting organization. Once completed, the project will go out to bid, followed by a permitting process.
Bitsko explained that a vegetated reinforced berm will be constructed along Nantasket Avenue, a truncated reinforced berm along Spring Street, and a concrete gravity wall covered with climbing vines along Duck Lane and the adjacent wetland. Flood gates are also part of the plan.
“The berms will be planted with native coastal plantings such as [beach] rose, bayberries, and goldenrod, which will stand from 2- to 6-feet-tall,” he said. “They will be robust plantings to last through the winter season, so [neighbors and passersby] probably won’t be able to see the 6- to 7-foot chain-link fence that will be situated at the top of the berm.” Bitsko said it is possible that the fence could be located at the bottom of the berm, depending in part on neighbors’ preference.
A few residents made comments, some through the meeting’s chat box feature – from asking about the time frame to expressing appreciation for what the speaker considers to be a much-needed project to stating a preference for the chain-link fence, which could be covered with a black material for aesthetic purposes.
The time frame for the project has not yet been determined because it will be based on when additional funding is secured and other considerations. Construction hours would be Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Resident Gary Kimball acknowledged he is aware that the area around the plant “is always going to flood.” At the same time, he said, he hopes this project can make the situation “better for everyone, both the [wastewater treatment] plant and the neighborhood.”
Kimball asked whether trees could be planted to shield the neighborhood from the unappealing rear view of the plant. He was told his suggestion would be considered.
In addition to the coastal zone management funding, the town was recently awarded a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to elevate critical electrical equipment at the plant above the FEMA 500-year flood elevation and above recommended design flood elevations to account for future sea-level rise.
It is expected another meeting will be scheduled in about a month. The Conservation Commission is scheduled to review the plan on April 13.
(The video of the meeting and the PowerPoint presentation are posted on the town website.)