The Waitsfield Planning Commission (PC) held a public hearing Tuesday night to present findings and final recommendations from a wastewater study completed by Stone Environmental of Montpelier.

The PC engaged engineers from Stone Environmental last August to explore wastewater options for Waitsfield village, with a special emphasis on the
potential for a series of smaller, decentralized systems.

Voters previously rejected the idea of one large single-pipe municipal wastewater system three years ago in conjunction with the approval of the municipal water project, currently underway.

PC members moved forward exploring alternatives to a large single-pipe sewer-type system last fall which included a survey of property owners. The effort was initiated by the Waitsfield Select Board after the centralized system was voted down in 2008.

The study is funded by a municipal planning grant and was overseen by a volunteer subcommittee of the Waitsfield PC.

PC chair Drew Simmons said that of the 140 properties included in the community survey, there was a 40 percent response rate. The survey was not required by the RFP.

"What's interesting about what's summarized in the report, and what is striking to me, is there is a huge variety of expressed need in this community. Even though there isn't a huge agreement on what to do in the community, less than 10 percent want to do nothing," he said.

According to the final "assessment of decentralized wastewater options" report, the Waitsfield/Irasville study area includes 139 properties totaling approximately 255 acres within the village, 21 properties contain single-family homes or multi-unit condominiums.

The study includes detailed maps of historical Waitsfield village that highlight capacity and need and incorporates the survey of landowners:

"Engineering, treatment technology, management and funding approaches can all be developed to address wastewater needs and the challenges of soil conditions and remaining wellhead protection areas. The Town of Waitsfield now has the opportunity to consider re-purposing previously granted wastewater infrastructure funding to address these expressed needs and physical constraints."

Simmons said that the RFP established what the need, capacity and challenges are. The recommendations will then be considered in an effort to "provide a strategic wastewater system that enables a case by case management structure; there is a broad range of wastewater management systems, different levels with different benefits, the next step is examination."

Amy Macrellis from Stone Environmental emphasized the need for the process to be on a volunteer basis. "It's very important to be a volunteering process. The existing infrastructure is almost entirely privately owned; to approach it any other way is not the kind of project you want," she said.

According to the recommendations of the wastewater study, town officials will review and decide on how to move forward, develop and implement public involvement to start building understanding of a support for a management and low-interest loan program, as well as continue working with consultants on technical work.

To view the final study completed by Stone Environmental, visit the PC's blog,