Comerford, Blais to host water, sewer forum on Friday

  • Sen. Jo Comerford, left, and Rep. Natalie Blais will host a forum on local sewer and water issues on Friday.

Staff Writer
Published: 10/30/2019 6:41:44 PM
Modified: 10/30/2019 6:41:33 PM

WHATELY — Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, will join the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) on Friday to discuss water and sewer issues that affect rural towns.

The two legislators have invited municipal leaders, state and federal officials, and water/infrastructure experts to talk about the needs of small, rural communities.

The forum will be held at the historic Whately Town Hall, 194 Chestnut Plain Road, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Over the past eight months, my office has been contacted by an alarming number of towns in our districts facing serious, intractable issues with providing water or sewer services to residents,” Comerford said. “The goal of this forum is to bring our towns together with water and sewer infrastructure experts and state and federal colleagues to identify challenges and strategize solutions.”

Blais said that based on conversations with communities across the 1st Franklin District, it became clear that aging water and sewer operations and infrastructure are a real problem in small towns.

“Our region is known for working together to tackle difficult challenges,” she said. “This meeting offers an opportunity for local, state and federal partners to begin to explore long-term solutions and funding sources.”

FRCOG Executive Director Linda Dunlavy said, “During the development of the Rural Policy Plan, we repeatedly heard that rural municipalities are constrained by water and sewer issues that are expensive to resolve and limit economic development. This forum is an opportunity to work with our state and federal partners to see how we can help.”

Many towns struggling with water and sewer are rural towns with small tax bases, crumbling infrastructure and large geographical areas, the legislators said. Their waste treatment plants or water companies operate at a deficit, often with infrastructure designed to serve a much larger population than currently exists in the town, and the towns have no money for badly needed repairs or overhauls.

Issues that will be the focus of the forum include the pressing need for a regional anaerobic digester in Franklin County; the challenges of towns saddled with large-scale systems that are no longer completely necessary, but must be maintained; and the challenges of system problems due to climate change. The forum will also focus on the lack of certified operators for rural systems; and the challenges associated with aging infrastructure and not having a public water supply or public sewer infrastructure.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext 269 or afritz@recorder.com.




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