2007-04-19 / Front Page

Plan emerges for new Fort Getty septic system

By Dotti Farrington

Based on staff findings and committee discussion, the town expects to hire a specialist to design a septic holding tank for the recreational vehicle (RV) campgrounds at the town's Fort Getty Park, Town Councilors were advised last week.

Expectations are that a 10,000- gallon holding tank, costing about $20,000, will resolve problems of the failed 2,500-gallon septic tank and leach field at the campgrounds. Some weeks ago, discussion included the possibility of needing to hook the campgrounds into the town sewer system at a cost of about $200,000.

Town Engineer Michael Gray reported that the chemicals generally used in RV campers to eliminate odors were harmful to any conventional waste treatment system, whether it be a self-contained unit or the town-wide treatment plant. He explained the chemicals destroy bacteria needed for the successful processing and treatment of waste.

In the past, RV campers generally brought their waste to the park tank, or some campers hired a truck to haul it to the tank or elsewhere. The town then pumped out the tank and brought it to the treatment Getty septic system

plant where it was processed separately from waste piped in from municipal sewer customers. When the campground system and field are functioning properly, the tank needs to be pumped about three times a season Last season it was pumped 11 times, at a reported cost of about $3,200 to the town.

Installation planned for August

Gray estimated it would be possible and practical to install the new holding tank in August and the installation will take a day or two. Until the new tank is in, he suggested, frequent pump outs of the tank will be adequate to prevent problems.

Gray was authorized to proceed with work to get the holding tank installed, and to determine if any restrooms or showers could be drained directly to the tank, or otherwise added in the area of the tank. The campground has two restroom and shower facilities near the RV sites.

A question was raised at the council meeting about the private hauler's role, and Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero was asked to determine if any permits are needed, or regulations apply.

State DEM role

Gray explained that the town needs approval from the state Department of Environmental Management for the new holding tank. He said DEM would determine the exact size that would be needed. The campground, on the shore of Narragansett Bay's West Passage, has a wetland within the park. Gray explained that the location is environmentally sensitive. He said DEM generally authorizes repairs to existing systems, but might have considerable requirements about any changes to the system.

Committee members, noting their work to devise major changes at the park, were interested in a variety of options, instead of a simple tank installation that would mean status quo for current uses and might limit options for improvements. Among the plans discussed are options to reconfigure the area for tent camping, and to add restrooms for the general public. Gray suggested DEM oversight probably would not allow even those changes, but said he would ask about them. The park has two restroom and shower locations near the RV sites.

Funding source

During discussions held at the meetings of both the council and the Fort Getty Master Plan Committee earlier this month, officials said the camping fees were intended to include a portion for waste disposal. To date, a separate fee has not been established and is not being contemplated at this time. Fees for the 105 camper sites are $3,175 each for the season from May to October, and there is a waiting list for vacancies. There also are five tent-only sites at $40 per night.

Most campers have 20- to 30- gallon waste containers, it was noted.

Ft. Getty Master Plan Committee members asked about the status of funds for the park. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser promised them a report on availability of funds, including those meant to be in-kind services provided by the town for work to be done with grant funds.

Keiser indicated that the new, 2007-08, budget would have up to $120,000 on which to draw for the holding tank and other work the committee seeks, and that $270,000 is in a fund reflecting the accumulated balance of fees collected. The Ft. Getty committee indicated that they believe close to $500,000 is available for Fort Getty work, and that budget did not include replacement of the holding tank.

The Ft. Getty committee said they were interested in finding a way to move the holding tank closer to the RV sites so they could eventually have room to park about 100 cars for the public. They are also interested in the construction of a shed for the island's Parks and Recreation Department. Gray indicated that parking and a shed could be sited in the location over the underground tank.

Other Ft. Getty park work

The committee, at work for about three years, wants to develop more public uses of the park, to make better use of its water views, and to build recreation-centered facilities, including a conference or banquet hall and a sailing school. The town Harbor Management Committee is also planning improvements to the boat ramp and related facilities at the park.

The Fort Getty Master Plan Committee meets next Thursday, April 26, at 2 p.m. at the library's museum room. The agenda topics are engineering, wastewater, grant implementation and unspecified new business.

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