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Waitsfield moves on permitting municipal sewage system

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October 12, 2006

By Lisa Loomis

Waitsfield will move forward with securing permits for a municipal wastewater system and may begin construction on the $6 to 7 million project in 2008.

The Waitsfield Select Board made plans to continue with permitting for the project despite not having secured all the funds for the project after a discussion with engineer John Kiernan about cost savings associated with permitting the project sooner versus later.

At the board's October 9 meeting, Kiernan told select board members that proceeding with permitting now would result in reimbursement of significant permitting costs. It will cost an estimated $250,000 to take the project through permitting, but Kiernan explained that the town will be reimbursed via state/federal grant funds for those costs.

Currently the town has secured roughly half the funds, via grants/loans, needed to pay for the municipal sewage system. The municipal septic plan calls for collection piping in Irasville and Waitsfield Village. The sewage mains will carry wastewater to the Munn property south of Waitsfield Village.

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At the Munn site, the wastewater will be treated to a high level (close to drinking water according to Kiernan) before being discharged. Hydrogeological tests on the site indicate that it could handle up to 125,000 gallons per day, but current state discharge rules will only allow a maximum of 90,000 gallons per day at the site.

Those rules, Kiernan said, are based on a lower level of treatment than the one Waitsfield will use. The town could go to the mat with the state and argue for the additional capacity, or it can proceed with 90,000 gallons per day and build the system so it can be expanded, Kiernan told the board this week.

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"To make an argument to the state, it would be a matter of pointing out that we're providing treatment that is close to drinking water quality. The state rules are written so that you can only put a certain amount of waste into the ground so that soil has the ability to acclimate and treat waste before it meets the river. We're putting in a plant with a very high treatment capability so we could argue that we should be able to dispose of more waste," Kiernan said.

"But we're going to accept the state's number for now and provide the ability to expand later. We don't know how long it will take for the use to reach the capacity of the system," he said.

Kiernan presented the select board with an option to permit the entire project and then build the infrastructure and the mains which would carry the wastewater but not build the actual treatment plant. Under that option the Munn site would be used to treat an estimated 17,500 gallons per day and voters would be asked to approve a bond for building the treatment plant in a second vote.

"We could design everything and delay building the treatment plant. There would be a limited number of people who could hook onto the system, but you could advance the project via separate votes," Kiernan told the board.

Select board chair Elwin Neill Jr. asked Kiernan about the funding the town has already secured and how much is still needed. Kiernan said the town still needs to find funding for an estimated $3.5 million.

Board members discussed whether the project should proceed piecemeal and rejected that option. Board members discussed how other parts of the project, including municipal water, could be pared down in cost.

Kiernan told the board that plans to bring municipal water from Reed Road to a storage facility at the LeClare gravel pit and then, via larger distribution pipes, into the village could be reduced in cost by using smaller pipes.

Currently the project calls for eight-inch pipes from the storage facility into town. This size pipe will allow for the installation of fire hydrants along the route.

Neill asked fellow board member and assistant fire chief Paul Hartshorn how the fire department feels about the hydrants.

"It would be nice to have the hydrants, but we've gotten along without them for a long time," Hartshorn said.

"We have to look way ahead here and look beyond the cost. We'll be sitting here in 10 years saying we should have put in hydrants," Neill said.

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