To the editor:
As a lifelong resident of the town of Portsmouth and homeowner in Island Park, I couldn’t be sadder at what has transpired over the sewer issue.
Portsmouth, as many cities and towns in New England, has faced the difficult and complicated issue of its aging infrastructure, in this case cesspools. I grew up in Portsmouth with farmers and fishermen and laborers and there families and there was a healthy respect for those people, many of whom had limited means. They were honest, hard-working people.
I’m afraid that this sewer issue has brought to light a new perspective. It seems that the issue seems to come down to money, and I don’t blame the people in Portsmouth who have a lot of anxiety about the cost of this issue. What bothers me is the way that the town went about isolating a small segment of the population — probably the neighborhood that could least afford to bear the burden of this issue and portraying them as the soul stakeholders.
The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) would have to be convinced that the area of Island Park would be the targeted area and the stakeholders in this issue. The town planner called the DEM and brought them to the Island Park area to do a shoreline survey in the area, after which the planner announced that DEM had found evidence of pollution in the Island Park area. They only looked in Island Park!
A series of consultants were hired that recommended sewers in many areas of town. But unfortunately, it was too late; the town planner was leading the charge for no sewers. The town issued a survey in which the first paragraph stated that if you didn’t live in the Island Park area, you probably didn’t need sewers.
The town planner presented the three options to the council: two sewer options at ridiculous cost and the wastewater management district option. Either of the sewer options included hooking to either existing sewer pipes in Tiverton or Middletown — very inexpensive options not costing anywhere near the $60 million option that was presented.
I’m saddened at how the town divided the people and accused the people of Island Park, many with limited means, of being polluters. What has transpired now is that many of these people have been pushed from their homes by the burden of $35,000 to $40,000 septic systems. This was not gentrification; this was the town excluding these people from the process and isolating them from the support of the community that they so desperately needed! Something stinks in Portsmouth and it’s not in Island Park!