Study details costs of Franklin County’s aging infrastructure

  • South Deerfield Wastewater Treatment Facility FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/5/2022 10:47:04 AM
Modified: 9/5/2022 10:43:16 AM

GREENFIELD — With large amounts of money pouring into the region through initiatives like the American Rescue Plan Act, a Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) study finds towns could use these sorts of funds to better manage an ever-growing maintenance and upgrade price tag.

FRCOG’s study, which was completed by the consulting firm Tighe & Bond, found several common threads plaguing water and wastewater systems across the county, including out-of-date or undeveloped capital improvement plans, out-of-date or undeveloped operation and maintenance manuals, incomplete water and sewer line mapping and difficulties in finding or retaining water and wastewater operators. The $106,700 study was funded by a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant.

Jessica Atwood, FRCOG’s economic development program manager, said the study will serve as a reference for FRCOG staff working alongside towns or water districts seeking technical or financial assistance in maintaining or upgrading facilities.

“It’s a snapshot in time of what’s happening with these various systems,” Atwood said. “When we work with towns, this is a helpful resource for us. We also want this to be useful for the municipalities themselves, so the town administrator, planning board or selectboard has information.”

The study provides an assessment of 18 public water systems, serving 15 municipalities, and 15 public wastewater facilities, serving 13 municipalities, while also looking at three village centers without water systems and three village centers without wastewater systems that are in need of them.

In an excerpt available on FRCOG’s website, the study provide estimates for the costs of immediate, short- and long-term repairs and upgrades to the county’s water and wastewater systems, with a total of $175.6 million and $123.6 million, respectively, in potential investments needed over the next 20 years.

Broken down, the greatest need for water systems is in distribution costs, which the report estimates at $70.8 million. For sewer systems, the greatest need comes in treating waste, with an estimated cost of $105.1 million.

Atwood said these findings are consistent with what residents may see in the news or hear at public meetings and forums.

“As we see in local news reporting, there is constant need for infrastructure improvements or upgrades,” Atwood said. Additionally, she said having this information will help FRCOG better advocate for funding from Boston. “At the regional level, it’s also important for us to advocate at the state level about why infrastructure resources and infrastructure investments are so important.”

With American Rescue Plan Act and other infrastructure money coming into communities, the report states the level of funding is similar to the 1972 Clean Water Act, which helped fund the construction of wastewater treatment plants across the U.S. through grant programs.

“Many communities throughout the United States, especially ones with a historically strong industrial sector, are struggling to fund expensive capital improvement projects designed to address aging water and wastewater infrastructure,” the study reads. “Until recently, the lack of State and Federal funds, compared to the Clean Water Act era, has resulted in a systematic shift of infrastructure maintenance and replacement costs to local governments.”

This “shift of burden,” Atwood said, is why the results of this study are important because it shows where, and when, towns will need to consider investing in their water infrastructure.

“The funds are available to communities that can use them and there are programs that look into investing in infrastructure in a way that hasn’t been done (since the Clean Water Act),” Atwood said. “Having this kind of information ready and being able to advocate for rural areas and Franklin County is important.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy