Published: 7/29/2022 4:25:27 PM
Even though work is likely years away at this point, Selectboard Chair Trevor McDaniel said the Old Deerfield Wastewater Treatment Plant is in “poor shape” and will need renovations to continue to properly serve the nonprofits, schools and homes hooked up to the system. The plant is wired with outdated electronic systems and lacks up-to-date clarifiers that can remove solids from waste.
“It’s instrumental to the schools and that end of town. … It’s an integral part to their longevity,” McDaniel said. “We’ve looked at several ideas … but it’s a lot of money to build these items and it gets more and more each year.”
Preliminary ideas for the plant, McDaniel said, including putting a “Band-Aid” on it so it can run for at least another decade, installing major upgrades, or turning the plant into a pump station and laying pipe to the South Deerfield plant, which could handle the additional capacity.
“There’s nothing set in stone yet,” McDaniel said. “It’s big thinking, long-term thinking.”
Anticipated work on the Old Deerfield plant comes as steady progress continues to be made on the South Deerfield plant. Work began several years ago when the town appropriated $19 million in 2019. An additional $3 million was appropriated at April’s Town Meeting to ensure the plant meets compliance standards. McDaniel expects Phase 1 of construction to be finished by March 2023 and further work to be done by 2025.
Originally, McDaniel said, the plan was to initiate major renovations at South Deerfield’s plant, start renovations at Old Deerfield and then finish off the leftover work at the South Deerfield plant. That plan was shifted once the town received the “big ticket” price tag and considered the fact that South Deerfield’s plant serves the majority of town, making it a higher priority.
The unique challenges facing the Old Deerfield plant further complicate any work that may be done. McDaniel said the plant, which was built in the 1970s, was constructed on a 100-year floodplain. Any construction work will need to be carefully considered to avoid flooding.
“We have to find somewhere else in the floodplain to dig a hole,” he said. “Imagine you have a full glass of water on the counter and you add ice to it — now you’ve displaced that water.”
McDaniel anticipates the town working closely with the schools and nonprofits in Old Deerfield, as they have for other projects. The Selectboard has appointed member Tim Hilchey to work with town counsel and Town Administrator Kayce Warren as negotiations between Deerfield and these organizations begin.
“They want to be a partner,” McDaniel said. “How do they help? What is the vehicle and what can they do that is fair to everybody?”
Even as needs at the plant mount, the town also faces its financial reality. With a slew of capital projects slated for South Deerfield and the ever-increasing yearly budget, McDaniel said funding for any sort of Old Deerfield work is “unattainable right now.” He noted this is because of the high price tag to begin with — he estimates it would be similar to South Deerfield’s plant — and the ceiling the town is already facing debt.
“There’s lots of moving parts,” McDaniel said. “We’re trying to figure out all of our obstacles and what are all of our possibilities.”
Chris Larabee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4081.