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Crucial Decision for Sewer: Mass Water Commission Approves Inter-Basin Water Transfer

Groton just received approval from the Mass. Office of Water Resources Commission Thursday, Oct. 11 for the long-awaited decision on the inter-basin transfer of water between Nash¬ua and Merrimack River basins that is crucial to the Lost Lake Sewer project. When water is removed from the Gro¬ton (Merrimack) basin and moved to the Ayer (Nashua) basin, this specific state approval is required. This is nec¬essary as Groton will be transporting wastewater from the proposed Lost Lake Sewer project to the Ayer Treat¬ment Station for processing. According to Lost Lake Sewer Committee member Tom Orcutt, once they had reviewed the application, the Water Resources Com¬mission agreed with consultants from Woodward & Curran that "the transfer of water was insignificant."

Woodward & Curran consultant Rosemary Baliquere reviewed the is¬sues with the Lost Lake Sewer Com¬mittee Thursday night. She stressed the contaminants affecting the health of Lost Lake including storm water runoff, septic systems that leach too fast, and the number of wells and septic fields that may be compromised, noting that 40 percent of the problem is from the septic systems at the lake. She also sug¬gested that the town might want to look at implementing a fertilizer bylaw that would limit the number of pounds per sq. ft. of fertilizer that could be used in that area.

"The most valuable water is potable drinking water. So far the public wells (Whitney Well) are okay but you don't want to wait until there is a problem," Baliquere said.

Lost Lake Sewer Committee Chair¬man Carol Quinn added that the prob¬lem is not just for "those homes with a septic system close to their well, but also those whose septic system is close to their neighbor's well. Essentially you can put in a well three feet from a neighbor's boundary."

She pointed out that voters at town meetings since 2002 have voted so far more than $1M to address these prob¬lems. At fall 2011 town meeting, vot¬ers approved $350K to file an Environ¬mental Impact Report for the Lost Lake Sewer Project that was required for the inter-basin transfer; $40K for an engi-neering review of the plan to transport wastewater to Ayer; and $10K to submit an application to the Water Pollution Abatement Trust to secure low interest loans for construction of the sewer in-frastructure.

Baliquere said that work going back to the 1980s by Baystate Environmental Consultants showed. "The lake was de¬grading and that you drink this water at peril." She added that this project meets both the town's Master Plan and the Montachusett Regional Planning Com¬mission plan.

To the question of a potential cost overrun for the project, Quinn replied,

"We would have to go back to the Board of Selectmen for more of a contribution (from the town.)" The $12.9M project contains some very conservative contingencies, and Baliquere said, "When the bids come in on the June, July time frame, then we'll know the real number."

Overall cost includes final design and construction. Groton's contribution is 25 percent. This can be paid for within the levy limit, and does not require a Proposition 2 1/2 override. This amount equals 13 cents per every $1000 assessment; a total $52 per year on a home assessed at $400,000.

In addition, for affected Lost Lake residents, there are betterments, hook¬up and pump costs, plus usage fees. According to a letter from the Lose Lake Sewer Committee, betterment assess¬ment for a single family home is pro-jected at $17,800; including the 25 percent town contribution. Other financing options are being actively explored, that could reduce betterment costs. Assess¬ments can be paid in full when assessed or apportioned and paid over time. Gro¬ton qualified for a 20-year/2% loan from the State Revolving Fund. This brings the betterment payments at $880 yearly for 20 years, $73.40 monthly paid at a rate of $220 with quarterly property tax bill. Hookup costs can vary by $5,000-$11,000 and are site specific. Usage fees will be calculated on the property's ac¬tual water usage.

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