The College Light Opera Company (CLOC) is installing a nitrogen-reducing septic system that will serve the West Falmouth organization’s main campus on Chapoquoit Road, which hosts 75 students from across the country throughout the summer months. CLOC, now preparing for its 52nd season, is the largest resident theatre company in the U.S., and its campus on Chapoquoit Road abuts West Falmouth Harbor, which has struggled with nitrogen pollution for decades.
The system, which is only the second of its kind to be installed within the Bay’s watershed, removes up to 95 percent of nitrogen from wastewater and is capable of serving not just single-family homes but small neighborhoods and larger facilities.
“The College Light Opera Company’s new septic system will significantly reduce the amount of pollution coming from the onsite septic system and will greatly benefit water quality in the harbor,” said Maureen Thomas, Water Resource Specialist with the Buzzards Bay Coalition.
The installation of the system, which began earlier this month, is part of a larger project CLOC has undertaken to renovate existing buildings and build a new rehearsal barn to better accommodate their teaching program and administrative staff. The campus, which is the site of the old West Falmouth Inn, has been the company’s home since 1975.
“This project is all about investing in the sustainability and longevity of the College Light Opera Company and that includes the environment and the community of which we are a part,” said Mark Pearson, the Executive Director of the College Light Opera Company. “We want to do this project in a way that would last another 50 years and beyond, which is why we are installing this nitrogen-reducing septic system. This is an investment in our future.”
The main campus’s location—on the harbor and a short walk from Chapoquoit Beach—contributes to the special nature of the experience that the company offers students. “Many of our students remember this as one of the best summers of their young adult lives,” Pearson said.
“Our main campus is just a five-minute walk from the beach. The students, whenever they have time, are out playing frisbee or volleyball on the lawn,” he said. “They walk to the beach at every opportunity and the harbor is always in view.”
“When you are living in this area, you can’t escape your connection to nature. We want to protect that for the company and the community’s future.”
The new septic system will represent a major step in controlling nitrogen from the campus. At present, CLOC has four cesspools and two Title 5 systems serving their campus that do not remove nitrogen from the wastewater. “CLOC’s commitment to the Harbor and their neighbors in West Falmouth is really inspiring. We’re excited to be partnering with them and look forward to seeing their investment reflected in better water quality this summer,” said BBC President Mark Rasmussen.
The Coalition’s work with CLOC is part of an ongoing initiative to reduce nitrogen pollution in West Falmouth Harbor and other locations around the Bay. In the past two years, the Coalition has facilitated the installation of 30 nitrogen-reducing septic systems in West Falmouth.
In a related project, the Coalition is currently working with the Town of Falmouth to install 41 conservation moorings in West Falmouth Harbor. This work is expected to hasten the harbor’s recovery by allowing the restoration of eelgrass, which provides critical habitat for shellfish and other species and contributes to improved water quality.