Friday, October 10, 2003
School to ask for wastewater plant at Fall Town Meeting Project delayed seven years by litigation, site selection
Seven years after the Carlisle School's septic system was declared in technical failure a new school wastewater treatment facility will finally go before voters at the Special Town Meeting on Monday, November 10. After a legal challenge that held up the project for years and months of tests and design work, school officials are hoping the town will vote to fund the project so construction can proceed.
The estimated cost for the total system is $1,499,000, which includes construction of a wastewater treatment facility and a septic field. The school has $233,000 available from funds previously set aside for a septic system in the 1996 school link building expansion project. Consequently, the Warrant Article will ask for $1,266,000 for the wastewater plant.
If passed by a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting on November 10, the funds will also need to be approved by a simple majority at the ballot box at the Special Town Election scheduled for Tuesday, November 18.
60% state reimbursement
Previously, the state School Building Assistance Bureau (SBAB) agreed to a 60% reimbursement rate for the wastewater project, the rate in 1996 at the time of the link building project. The current reimbursement rate for school building projects is considerably lower. However, the SBAB commitment is based on work being completed in a timely manner. In a letter dated September 22 from SBAB administrator Christine Lynch to School Business Manager Steve Moore, Lynch writes, "This project must start by the summer of 2004 and no further extensions will be granted. Delays beyond that timeframe would necessitate the submittal of a new application." Even if the project is funded by the town this fall, state reimbursement monies are likely to take several years due to the state's economic condition, acknowledges Moore.
If the town waits, the state reimbursement will likely be lost, says School Building Committee Chair Paul Morrison. "We have to do the project sometime. The system is in technical failure." Until the system is redone, the school is required by the Board of Health to pump out the septic tank monthly at a cost of $1,000 a month.
The School Building Committee plans to replace the current failed septic system with a new wastewater treatment facility designed to meet the needs of the existing school as well as a possible future expansion of the school.
The school septic system was found in technical failure by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 1996 during a Title 5 inspection required for the Link expansion project, says Superintendent of Building and Grounds David Flannery. The distance between the high water mark and the bottom of the school leaching field located under Spalding field was less than five feet, which did not meet Title 5 regulations. Until the new system is in place, Flannery says the school will continue voluntary quarterly tests for the Board of Health on the water quality in the swamp pond on Church Street. So far all samples have been within normal ranges.
The 1996 septic system was to be sited on the Banta-Davis Land, but the plan was challenged in court by a Bedford Road abutter. The Rivers Protection Act was cited in the suit because a sewerage pipe running from the school down to the lower Banta-Davis fields would have to cross Pages Brook, a year-round stream off Church Street. The suit, along with a glitch in the town's initial filing with the DEP, delayed construction plans for several years as town officials, consulting engineers and lawyers tried to determine if there is any acceptable alternate site for the septic field.
Engineers have since advised the building committee that the school now needs a wastewater treatment facility, rather than a septic system, due to increased enrollments which have increased flow rates at the school.
Plant exempt from Rivers Act
In the meantime, the building committee learned last year that wastewater treatment plants are exempt from Rivers Protection Act regulations, although septic systems are not. While the wastewater plant required is more costly than the originally planned septic system, its exemption from the Rivers Protection Act was welcome news for the building committee and school and town officials, allowing plans for the wastewater system to proceed without further delay.
Completing the wastewater plant became the top priority for the School Building Committee this year, after plans for a school campus expansion were put on hold due to the weak economic conditions in the area.
This week, the building committee brought the plan before both the Carlisle Finance Committee and Conservation Commission. The project requires ConsCom approval because a pipe containing treated sewerage will cross Pages Brook, a wetlands area at the bottom of Church Street. The pipe will be buried under the brook and will not be visible on the surface, says Moore.
In addition, a Notice of Intent for the project was filed with the DEP this week. The state review is expected to take several months.
Treatment plant, leaching
The engineering firm of Hoyle, Tanner and Associates designed the wastewater treatment plant building, which will be located on school property on the wooded slope between the back corner of the gym and the Spalding playing fields. The building committee worked with engineers for months to come up with a suitable site that would have the least impact on neighbors. The site chosen has a 50-foot setback from the closest abutter, the Carlisle Congregational Church, and is well down the hill from the church's back parking lot. An access road for the plant will be built off the existing road that runs along the left side of the gym on school property. The access road will require fill to even out the sloping site.
The leaching field will be sited on the Banta-Davis Land, to the left of the lower baseball playing field and beyond the chain link fence surrounding the field. Plans show that a pipe, carrying the school's treated sewerage, will run from the wastewater treatment plant down the hill along the side of Church Street to the corner of Bedford Road. There it will turn and run along Bedford Road, past the cemetery, and finally up to the leaching field on the Banta-Davis Land.
The plant needs to be maintained for three to four hours a day by a person trained for the job. The part-time job would likely be done by someone in the school's buildings and grounds department under supervisor Flannery.
If funds are approved by the town in November and the DEP approves the project, construction is expected to begin next summer and be completed within six months, or early 2005.
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