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New sewer project on horizon for Montague

MONTAGUE — There’s money in the pipeline to keep the sewage flowing.

The town made the state’s list of municipalities qualifying for what amounts to a zero-percent-interest loan to replace the eight aging pump stations that keep the wastewater coursing, and must now decide how to proceed.

The average sewer bill could increase approximately $80 if the proposal under consideration goes ahead, according to the town administrator.

Robert Button of engineering contractor CDM Smith of Cambridge, which completed a recent assessment of the town’s eight pump stations, raised the specter of the recent Industrial Boulevard and Millers Falls Road sewage pipe collapses.

The collapse and ensuing errors in the replacement project cost the town $1.7 million.

Button focused on the replacement of two stations, those at First and Poplar streets. Both were constructed in 1962 and have exceeded their projected 30-year lifespan by more than two decades.

The study commissioned by the town found the stations to be desperately in need of replacement, Button said, with the pumps and controls aging and the potential for a structural collapse.

Additionally, the force mains connected to the stations are of the same asbestos cement variety implicated in the Industrial Boulevard collapse. Replacement of the mains in the immediate area of the pump stations is included in the cost estimate for the project, Button said.

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund approved the town for $7.28 million, a figure representing the construction costs for all eight stations, Button said, but the town may wish to begin with two and come up with a five- to 10-year plan for the others.

Design costs limiting factor

The program applies to construction, but the town will be responsible for the design bill.

Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio said undertaking all eight stations at once would require too significant a rise in sewer bills.

Two stations would come to a total cost of about $3 million, Abbondanzio said, including the state loan funded construction and the town funded design, for an increase to the average sewer user’s annual bill in the region of $80.

Robert Trombley, superintendent of the sewer system, said emergency work comes at double the cost and quadruple the frustration, and the town cannot afford to defer replacements until the stations fail.

Included in the replacement plans are more sophisticated remote monitoring systems that might spare the town the cost of a Department of Environmental Protection mandate to increase inspections of the stations, Trombley said.

Button said the state fund has a June 30 deadline for the town to authorize borrowing, and the town will need to make a decision at the annual town meeting in May if the project is to begin.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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