By Sal Spinosa

At the current Munn site, the Waitsfield wastewater project is intended to accomplish the same two laudable goals identified in the prior project: a) eliminate the need for well shields thus allowing affordable housing infill in the target zone, and 2) prevent household waste from escaping onsite septic systems and polluting the Mad River. To evaluate fully whether this project will achieve those goals we should examine and consider some relevant, recent history.

  • Waitsfield voters were previously asked to support a bond intended to pay for a prior Munn site wastewater system, a vote that failed. What was the cost of the work performed prior to the vote? How much remains? Is this a town-wide expense? How much is paid off each year? When will it be entirely paid off?
  • Subsequently, a municipal water system was approved by the voters, and built for use throughout the same target zone. Is it true that this water system was intended, in some measure, to eliminate onsite wells and their respective well shields in order to free up land allowing for affordable housing and other development? What was the cost of the water system? Who pays the debt associated with this system, users or the entire tax base? How many structures within the target are currently hooked to the water system? How much of the total capacity of the water system is currently being accessed?
  • Subsequently, Waitsfield partnered with the state to develop decentralized wastewater collection systems. An explanation of such a system would be helpful. Was there an expense to the town for this work? If so, how much? What is that debt currently? Did the public participate in the use of this system? To what extent? Which properties?
  • To compare, the town of Warren collects household septic waste from its downtown properties and transports it to a leach field for treatment. What percentage of that leach field’s capacity is currently being used?
  • Does the limited public participation in each of the above systems, both water and septic, inform us about the expected user participation in the intended Munn site wastewater system? Are there plans to encourage/entice broad public use of the planned system? If so, what are they?

I hope that I have asked important questions and that the answers will advance a sober discussion of this project. Rather than manufacture a desired outcome by “placing our finger on the scale for housing,” (VR 9-30-21) or scolding the Waitsfield Select Board chair for trying to splice this work into ongoing budgetary planning (VR 12-23-21), it is preferred that we follow select board member Curtis’ urgings that we the voters engage now and loudly over the project choices (VR 11-3-22 P7) before approval of and funding for this project are presented for a public vote. 

(Some of these concerns may have been addressed publicly at the May 8 informational meeting at the Main Street United Church of Christ, covered in the May 23 edition of the VR and also available at https//

Sal Spinosa lives in Waitsfield