Feds OK loan, grant toward water treatment upgrade in Orange

Staff Writer
Published: 12/6/2019 10:02:54 PM
Modified: 12/6/2019 10:02:40 PM

ORANGE — About 40 percent of the cost to upgrade the town’s Wastewater Treatment Facility is being covered by a federal grant.

That’s thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for Orange to make “improvements to the existing facility to include updates to the preliminary treatment area, biological treatment systems, solids handling system and electrical systems.”

According to Edward Billiel Jr., Wastewater Treatment Facility chief operator, upgrading the more than four-decades-old facility will cost around $16 million total.

The USDA grant for the project is $6.6 million, which does not need to be paid back. In addition, USDA is loaning the town $10 million for the remainder of the project’s cost.

“A lot of the equipment is 40-plus years old, and it’s not working the way it’s supposed to,” Billiel said.

According to Billiel, wastewater treatment facilities should typically be upgraded every 20 to 25 years. Orange’s facility was built in 1977, and only received “small” improvements back in 2000.

For at least the last five years, upgrading the facility has been a major priority, and the USDA funding means bids for construction can finally start this year.

“We hope to be under construction this time next year,” Billiel said. “We’re very lucky we got about a 40 percent grant.”

Specific work that will be done at the facility includes installing a new grit removal system, a screening system to take rags out from the wastewater stream, and pump and piping replacements.

“With 40 years of water going through these pipes, it can wear it down,” Billiel said.

The project will cost $16 million “either way,” Billiel said, and the facility’s age means new and costly problems could arise at any time. The $6.6 million grant helps keep user fees down, because it does not need to be paid back. User fees will rise to pay back the loan.

The grant and loan are part of USDA’s rural development program. According to D.J. LaVoy, USDA deputy under secretary for rural development, the department invested $635 million in 122 projects to improve water and wastewater systems in 42 states — all in rural communities.

More than $20 million in loans and more than $10 million in grants were allocated to communities in Massachusetts.

In Franklin County, Deerfield received an $8.57 million loan and a $2.6 million grant to modernize the South Deerfield Wastewater Treatment Plant, including upgrading the headworks with mechanical screening and washing, a new vortex grit capture system, and a new grit pumping and processing system.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

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