The septic system that serves the Joslin Memorial Library and the Waitsfield town offices has failed.

The system has been in distress since last fall, according to Joslin Library Trustee John Reilly, and has been in trouble for over 10 years.

Reilly said that 10 years ago when the system – the provenance of which is unknown – first ran into troubles, the library and town had the tank replaced with a 1,000-gallon tank and unsuccessfully attempted to purchase an easement for a leach field from neighboring property owners.

“When we could not negotiate an easement for a leach field, we decided to have the tank pumped regularly and wait for municipal septic,” Reilly said.

Municipal septic, as a townwide proposal, was voted down in 2006 although the town is now working on a plan for decentralized wastewater systems to solve location-specific septic issues in the town. State and federal funds that the town would have used for one large townwide system will now be available for low-interest loans to individual property owners and groups of property owners seeking to create smaller decentralized solutions.

But that fix is at least one year, possibly two years, out and the situation at the library worsened considerably in the past week or so. Reilly said that the tank was pumped early last week and was completely full seven days later because the leach field is backing up into the tank. He said that the specifics of the leach field (location, depth, soils) are unknown.

The cost of pumping the system is $300 per month, with an additional $100 to flush the lines if the overflow alarms aren’t heard in time, Reilly said. That cost makes monthly pumping an untenable solution.

Reilly discussed the situation with the Waitsfield Select Board this week where a proposal to install a port-o-let in the veterans’ memorial park adjacent to the library was discussed and approved on March 11.

The Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce also discussed the port-o-let idea at a board meeting on March 12 and board members asked chamber director Susan Klein to write a letter opposing the installation of a port-o-let as an “unnecessary visual element to our historic downtown.”

The chamber letter also asked why neighboring property owners were not asked about other alternatives and Klein took the issue to the neighboring Waitsfield United Church of Christ where she received permission, and a key, for town and library staff to use the church bathroom for the time being.

Waitsfield town administrator Valerie Capels, on March 13, reported that she would not pursue a port-o-let yet and thanked Klein for her efforts.

“The church’s offer of a key makes a huge difference,” she wrote in an email.

The library trustees are also discussing the issue as The Valley Reporter goes to press on March 13.