BRANDON — Upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment system could cost somewhere between $2.8 million and $4.1 million, according to preliminary estimates.
The Select Board, acting as the Board of Sewer Commissioners at its Monday meeting, heard from Wayne Elliot, of Aldrich and Elliot, an engineering firm based in Essex, about what the wastewater infrastructure in town needs, how much it might cost depending on what the board wishes to see replaced, and how that work might be funded.
Elliot said his firm worked with town and state officials over the summer to craft the preliminary engineering report for potential wastewater plant upgrades, evaluating what’s there, what isn’t, and what could be fixed or added given some direction from the board. He said most of the plant was built in 1965. Some work was done in the early 1990s and in the early 2000s some upgrades to reduce phosphorus emissions were completed. “That’s going to set the groundwork,” he said. “The majority of what we’re looking at here is age-related.”
He said the stated goal of state regulators has been to keep the plant operating consistently going forward.
He said the plant runs quite well, but during periods of wet weather it sees a dramatic increase in flow, which can be a challenge for the plant’s operators to manage. For better or worse, the town’s sewer lines don’t follow its streets so much as they follow topography, and there are places where the pipes get infiltrated.
Elliot said the report circulated among board members includes a number of options, among them a “do nothing” option that it is obligated to include. Some areas where the plant is lacking is with the screen of inorganic material, such as plastic. Right now, the plant has devices that break down material into smaller pieces, but doesn’t eliminate these materials from the system completely, leading to clogs and other issues. Some of the ditching needs to be upgraded and the town could consider adding a third layer of secondary filtration.
He said the $2.8 million to $4.1 million estimate only covers construction costs and doesn’t account for permitting or contingency plans.
Town Manager David Atherton said he had not yet looked into possible funding sources, noting that the usual procedure is for the town to pin down what it wants in terms of a project and its cost before seeking funds.
Elliot said the town likely would seek money from two sources, the state’s clean water program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Being a small town, Brandon could qualify, from the state, for help with 40% of the project, up to $2 million. Help from the USDA would also be looked into, as interest rates are low right now. He said an application to the USDA would have to be complete by December, and state funding would need a bond vote in March. Elliot said that his firm has seen several other projects installing the screening systems as they help the plant in the long run. Ultimately, he said, it comes down to what the board wishes to spend, and that in its reports his firm considers sensitivity to water and sewer rates as well as current economic conditions.
Hopkins said that for a follow-up the board would like to see how the screening and third secondary filtration devices would impact ratepayers.
Selectman Tim Guiles asked to see a rate impact estimate for both the minimum and upper spending options. Elliot said he can have that information for the town at a future meeting.
“We’re not big spenders, but it’s been pretty conclusively shown, very locally and very recently, that solid infrastructure is really important to economic development and to the vibrancy of a town, and to the attractive of families and businesses coming to a town,” said Hopkins. “This is not a surprise that we need an investment in our wastewater treatment system and I think this will go hand in hand with the other infrastructure that’s happened in Brandon, and it will make Brandon stand out as a town that’s willing to take care of itself and be a host to families in the future.”
The town recently celebrated the completion of the Segment Six project, an approximately $28 million overhaul of Route 7 through its downtown that saw the installation of new water and sewer lines, lighting, sidewalks and parking. It was funded largely by the federal government with the town and state supply in a relatively small match.