Questions remain about Conway municipal sewer proposal

Recorder Staff
Saturday, April 23, 2016

CONWAY — The suggested options for a downtown sewer may have flaws, but no one at a weekend wastewater feasibility forum in Conway wanted the feasibility committee to stop exploring the idea of building a community septic system.

The committee has studied the possibility of developing a system focused on the short- and long-term needs of the downtown area. Saturday, it held the forum at Town Hall to share its preliminary findings and get public feedback.

After nearly two hours of discussion following Chairman Joe Strzegowski’s presentation, committee member Dave Chichester asked for a straw poll to get the crowd’s general consensus. Roughly 15 of the more than 30 people in attendance raised their hands when Chichester asked who thought the feasibility committee should proceed studying the possibility of having a community septic system. Not a single hand was raised when he asked who wanted the committee to stop its research.

Conway residents have individual septic systems. According to Chichester, residents and Selectboard members realize downtown economic development is restricted by the lack of a community system. Strzegowski said the goal is also to protect the town’s water supply.

Strzegowski said there are three options: effluent, conventional gravity, grinder systems. The feasibility committee suggests an effluent system. According to information from the Water Environment Research Foundation, an effluent sewer carries wastewater that has undergone primary treatment, or the separation of its liquid and solids, to a leach field.

This system, which Strzegowski said would cost roughly $2 million, requires the use of existing or replacement septic tanks, to which raw sewage flows. Strzegowski said the system uses a combination of gravity and pumping and, depending on location, some homes would need pumps. Though not all buildings in Conway would be served by the system, townwide taxes would be used for installation, Strzegowski said, explaining that downtown residents would likely not be able to shoulder the entire cost.

Strzegowski said a conventional gravity system is “a big-city solution,” with manholes and pumps. It would cost between $3.5 million and $5 million, not including the treatment plant. A grinder system takes all the waste solids and grinds them into a liquid and pushes it to a full-scale treatment plant, which Conway does not currently have. Strzegowski did not have an estimated total for this type of system.

There are a few funding options, including grants or low-interest loans from the USDA Rural Development program. This would reduce the amount of taxes residents contribute to a system, though the entire system would have to be town-owned, Strzegowski said.

Regarding an effluent system, resident Mark Ladd he worries about odors that could come from the leach fields.

“This is a scary thing,” he said.

Resident Mark Silverman, who lives on Elm Street, said he has had a self-contained septic system for six or seven years and said there is never an odor. His neighbor, Sue MacDonald, agreed.

Strzegowski said under an effluent system each leaching site would be designed for a capacity of 10,000 gallons per day. He told The Recorder he plans to deliver a condensed version of his presentation at the end of the May 9 annual town meeting.

Strzegowski said most existing sewer systems in town were installed in the early 1970s. Some systems have never been replaced; others have been replaced several times. Replacements costs range from $15,000 to $40,000.

The feasibility committee is using White Engineering as its consultant.

You can reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257. On Twitter, follow @DomenicPoli