I don’t go to many gatherings these days, but on Tuesday I made an exception to attend a happy event–the groundbreaking for the Orleans municipal wastewater system. Decades in the making and a testament to the perseverance, and thick skin, of some dedicated and visionary public-spirited volunteers, this project is a bold step forward not just for Orleans, but also for the entire Cape.

Getting big things done is hard. It is especially hard when the subject is wastewater and the dollars are big. Many people don’t want to focus on the issue and hope that it can just be ignored a little while longer, or at least until they sell their house and move on. That is why this success is so significant. Literally every obstacle there was to be placed in the way of success was thrown at the project proponents, and yet enough people stayed committed to the cause of clean water to overcome every hurdle.

The lessons for all of us are clear. The first is clean water is worth fighting for and, when given the facts and a plan, voters agree enough to raise their own taxes to pay the tab. The tools for easing the financial burden of cleaning up long-neglected water quality problems, particularly the 0% state funding and principal forgiveness of debt though the new Cape and Islands Water Protection Trust, work and are available to all Cape towns. Towns all across the Cape can find ways to finance these projects in an affordable fashion. Orleans did it and your town can too if you demand it. And lastly, as stated here before, people matter. This project happened because a small but dedicated group of citizens made it happen. You can too.

While celebrating this big victory for clean water, let’s also rededicate ourselves to replicating this success across the Cape. This needs to be the first of many such celebrations. It is up to us to make that so.

For the coverage of the groundbreaking ceremony in the Cape Cod Times, click here.