Montague going back out to bid on sewer repairs

  • The village of Millers Falls in Montague. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/8/2019 6:09:34 PM
Modified: 11/8/2019 6:09:20 PM

MILLERS FALLS — A sewer repair project in Millers Falls has hit a minor speed bump, but is still on track to be completed this winter and is not expected to cost more than what was earmarked at an October Town Meeting.

The problem became apparent last year, when Montague’s water treatment costs for Millers Falls came back higher than usual. Although Montague has its own wastewater treatment facility, sewage from Millers Falls is sent to Erving’s treatment center, explained Erving Wastewater Chief Operator Pete Sanders. This arrangement between the two towns dates back to the 1970s or earlier, he said.

Normally, Montague pays a flat fee to Erving for this service. In the present contract, the fee covers up to 33 million gallons of sewage, according to Town Administrator Steve Ellis. Any more than that and overage charges may be added. For this fiscal year, the base fee is $205,000.

Last year, Montague was charged an overage fee for the first time, an extra $51,870, Ellis said. That period included the heavy, persistent rainfall of the spring and summer of 2018. Town officials suspected that the sewage system was taking on extra water from the extra-saturated soil.

An engineering study of the system identified eight leaks in the pipes where groundwater is seeping in. An October Special Town Meeting earmarked $100,000 for the repair project — including $25,000 for the design plan of the repairs, an estimated $50,000 to $60,000 for the repair work itself and the remaining as contingency — and the repair was expected to be complete this winter.

Unexpectedly, the town got only one bid, asking $136,000, Ellis said. The high number was probably due to a misinterpretation of what the project entailed, Ellis said. Potential contractors seemed to have assumed that the project would involve more extensive testing of the system than is necessary.

The town is now re-advertising the project with clearer guidelines. The extra request for proposals does not add to the overall cost of the project, Ellis said. Bids will be in by Tuesday, and the project is still on track to be done this winter, he said.

In the meantime, Sanders said Erving has been glad to see Montague working toward a solution. Ellis said the strong relationship between the two towns will probably be taken into consideration when Erving assesses any overage charges for this year.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.

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