Colrain Sewer District trucking sewage to Montague through new agreement

Patrick Geary, representing the Colrain Sewer District, speaks with the Colrain Selectboard in August about sewage processing updates.

Patrick Geary, representing the Colrain Sewer District, speaks with the Colrain Selectboard in August about sewage processing updates. STAFF FILE PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Barnhardt Manufacturing Co. at 247 Main Road in Colrain.

Barnhardt Manufacturing Co. at 247 Main Road in Colrain. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 09-22-2023 7:38 PM

COLRAIN — A short-term solution for the Colrain Sewer District has been found, with the district trucking its own sewage.

“I don’t envy the homeowners. They had a great deal and that was changed,” said Jan Ameen, executive director of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District. “[District Commissioner and Moderator Patrick Geary] is trying to make lemonade of lemons.”

Barnhardt Manufacturing Co. at 247 Main Road, which has been processing the sewage of 21 homes in the village of Griswoldville, announced its closure in early December 2022, leaving the residents of the Colrain Sewer District to search for a solution quickly. The company had processed the sewage free of charge for years, with other manufacturing companies in the space always doing the same. With no new businesses moving into the building, the residents had to find a solution or their homes would be condemned.

Although Barnhardt stopped processing the sewage in the spring, the company was paying to truck the sewage from the facility up until Sept. 1. It was a close call for the Colrain Sewer District to begin dealing with its own sewage, but contracts were signed just in time for it to take over operations.

Ameen worked with district commissioners in mid-August to sign an inter-municipal agreement covering sewage trucking. Through the agreement, it costs $740 to transport each load, carrying 9,000 gallons of sewage, to the Montague Clean Water Facility, which then charges 1 cent per gallon to process it. The total cost per load, according to Ameen, is $932.

When Barnhardt dealt with the trucking, it transported 6,000-gallon loads.

“Right now there are no red flags,” Ameen said. “It’s just a financial issue.”

The district spent weeks negotiating a lease with Barnhardt to be able to check the systems of the processing plant, something that needed to be done starting Sept. 1. District Commissioner and Moderator Patrick Geary explained the lease was signed on the last day of August and he checks the systems daily.

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The district has been trucking about one load per week since it started handling its own sewage, and it’s unclear what a monthly average might be since the operation has just begun. However, Ameen said Barnhardt was trucking an average of 72,000 gallons of sewage each month. Ameen said the worst-case scenario is the Colrain Sewer District will have eight truckloads per month.

During heavy storms, there is water infiltration in the collection system and more wastewater needs to be hauled, costing the financially strapped Colrain Sewer District more money.

There are also still outstanding questions about who owns the collection system for the district. Geary explained the district does not own the system, but ownership is still unknown at this time.

Later this fall, the district will find out if it was awarded the state’s Community One Stop for Growth grant, which will help cover the cost of trucking.

Geary expects the district’s money, which includes a $50,000 earmark from state Sen. Paul Mark, D-Becket, will run out by January.

“If we don’t get any more funding we will be in some trouble,” Geary said.

Long-term solutions are still in the works. The district is working with Resources for Communities and People (RCAP) Solutions and other entities to find an answer.

“Our main concerns are funding to get through winter,” Geary said, “and finding an affordable wastewater treatment solution for the future.”

Reach Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.