The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 9, 2001


After months of trying to come up with an alternative site for the new wastewater treatment facility needed for the Carlisle School, the school building committee has settled on the lower Banta-Davis field off Bedford Road as the only suitable town land within a reasonable proximity of the school.

The septic system originally planned for Banta-Davis was legally challenged by abutters Timothy and Phyllis Landers of 326 Bedford Road in 1996. The Rivers Protection Act was cited in a suit because Pages Brook, a year-round stream located at the bottom of Church Street, needs to be crossed by a sewerage pipe running from the school down to the Banta-Davis Land. The Massachusetts Superior Court ruled against the town in April 2000, ordering the town to "re-file its Notice of Intent (NOI) with the Carlisle Conservation Commission, including in the NOI a written analysis of the alternative Spalding field and hillside sites for commission review."

Since that time engineers have advised the building committee that the school now needs a wastewater treatment facility rather than a septic system, due in part to increased enrollments which have increased flow rates at the school. The present school septic system has been in technical failure under Title V regulations for several years and is pumped out monthly. The system has not physically failed, however.

Because Pages Brook is protected under the Rivers Protection Act, the building committee must submit a NOI to the Carlisle Conservation Commission for their review. The Conscom reviews the NOI, holds public hearings and then makes a decision either approving or disapproving of the wastewater treatment project. At the same time the NOI is sent to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for review of the completeness of the plans. The DEP doesn't make a decision on the NOI; however, any decision made by the local ConsCom can be appealed to the DEP.

At the selectmen's meeting on October 30, town attorney Rick Hucksam of Deutsch, Williams said the town needs to prove it has looked everywhere for a suitable site for the wastewater treatment system and that no other land is available. "It's most important to do the NOI properly," said Hucksam, noting that an alternatives analysis was not included in the original NOI. "The alternatives analysis must withstand scrutiny by the state," he said. Though an alternative site analysis was not required in the original NOI, its omission was a technicality that was critical in the courts.

Environmental engineers Vanasse, Hangen and Brustlin, Inc.(VHB) discussed results from the latest round of soil tests at the upper Banta-Davis playing field off Bedford Road. Engineer Brian Lynch said tests show the upper field is impermeable with a percolation rate of 30 minutes per inch, ruling it out as a site for a leaching field.

At the request of town officials, VHB has conducted soil tests on dozens of sites around the school over the last several months to try to come up with an alternative to the Banta-Davis Land. Soil tests were done at the Spalding playing field, the hillside next to the school, the school parking lot and other sites, none of which was suitable for the wastewater system and septic field required. Selectmen also looked into using the town's Fox Hill Land off Bedford Road, which is conservation-restricted, but decided against it after residents and conservation commission members voiced their objections.

Funds for design, permitting

The school building plans to ask residents at the November 27 Town Meeting to approve funds for the planning stages of the wastewater system.

VHB engineering design and permitting for the lower Banta-Davis field could cost up to $330,000 at the upper limit, depending on the size of the system. "You need to define what needs to go into the system for an accurate cost estimate," Lynch told the selectmen.

A system designed to handle 15,000 gallons a day would accommodate the existing school and a possible second school built at a later date, according to school business manager Eileen Riley. A 15,000 gallon-a-day system is less complex and may only require a generator, a house and control panels, Lynch said. An even larger system designed to handle up to 30,000 gallons a day was estimated for cost purposes only at this time and would be more complex with a laboratory possibly needed. "The town needs to make decisions on the size of the system and the site," said Lynch, "because one thing impacts another."

Construction of the wastewater system is estimated to cost between $750,000 to $1 million. Current estimates for engineering design and permitting costs are $330,000 at the outside limit, with additional construction phase engineering costs of $110,000. Engineering and construction expense estimates total somewhere between $1 and $1.5 million to complete the system.

According to Riley, the town already approved money for the Grant building expansion project septic system in 1996. Of the $500,000 already approved, $150,000 has been spent, leaving $350,000 allocated for the septic system project. The Warrant article will ask for approval to expend money already approved for the septic system, for design and permitting.

The money would be used to file a ground water discharge permit with the DEP and for engineering design. At Spring Town Meeting, the school building committee plans to ask for the additional funds needed to construct the system.

Up to 60 percent of the cost of the new wastewater system is eligible for reimbursement by the state School Building Assistance Bureau (SBAB), according to Riley. An amount of $700,000 is already approved by the SBAB to replace the current failed system. Riley said the SBAB commitment is based on work being completed in a timely manner. The school provides updates to the state on the status of the project, including any issues with litigation. Selectman Vivian Chaput noted that it could take five to seven years for SBAB reimbursement, given the current economic climate in the state.

"Money spent on the septic facility planning may be wasted due to legal challenges at the site," reminded FinCom member Simon Platt. Chaput responded, "We have no alternative. We have no option but to put it there."

If funds for design and permitting for the wastewater treatment facility are approved at Town Meeting, a new NOI will be filed, probably after the first of the year, according to Riley.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito