Hudson’s water, sewer rates increase

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Price hike connected to PFAS filtration maintenance, treatment plant upgrades

Photo by/Dakota Antelman
A gate blocks the entrance to the Chestnut St well facility in Hudson. Water pollution near Chestnut prompted a PFAS contamination crisis in 2019 which, in turn, is now prompting water and sewer rate increases.

By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer

HUDSON – Residents will soon see an increase on their water and sewer bills after the Hudson Select Board unanimously voted to raise the rates during their April 26 meeting. 

This will take effect on Saturday, May 15, according to Director of Public Works Eric Ryder. 

The sewer rates will increase from $8.13 to $9.02. Water rates, meanwhile, will now range between $6.04 and $7.26, depending on usage.

“I’d like to point out that this is not the end of the rate increases, if we look at the five-year plans,” said Select Board Member Fred Lucy during the meeting. 

In an interview, Ryder said that the rates for both sewer and water will indeed continue to increase through fiscal year (FY) 2026. 

Treatment plant upgrades prompt changes

The rate hikes are the result of upgrades to Hudson’s sewage treatment plant as well as a new PFAS treatment plant at town wells off Chestnut Street.

Some of the additions to the sewer treatment plant, which are estimated to cost $15 million, include pump, process, lighting and plant water upgrades, according to Ryder.

“We have been raising these rates each year to get to the point where the revenue will be high enough to pay for the debt service on this,” Executive Assistant Tom Moses said during the April 26 meeting. 

The sewer rate increase is projected to generate $4.2 million in FY 2022. The amount of revenue will increase to $5.8 million by 2026. 

Ryder said he has received a preliminary design for the sewer plant upgrades, adding that the town may have a contractor on the project by late fall. 

Town expecting $5 million PFAS treatment plant project

Currently, the Chestnut Street Well has a temporary PFAS treatment plant set up during Hudson’s emergency response to water contamination in 2019. The new, permanent PFAS treatment plant is estimated to cost $5 million, according to Ryder. 

How much a ratepayer will pay depends on their water usage. Hudson measures its water usage in cubic feet, and 100 cubic feet is equivalent to 750 gallons of water. 

The rate for users of up to 1,400 cubic feet will be $6.04. On the highest end, the rate for users of up to 15,000 cubic feet will be $7.26. 

The rate increase is projected to generate $3.8 million in the 2022 FY. 

PFAS, which is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are chemicals used to produce stain-resistant, water-resistant and non-stick products. Some types of firefighting foam may also contain PFAS, according to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

DEP studies indicate that exposure to elevated levels of some PFAS may cause a number of health effects, such as issues with the thyroid, liver, kidneys, specific hormones and the immune system. PFAS can also have developmental impacts on fetuses and infants. 

Hudson PFAS crisis lingers in memory

A water sample first showed elevated levels of PFAS in Hudson water in January of 2019. That prompted months of urgent action, meetings and anxiety among town residents in what Executive Assistant Tom Moses told the Community Advocate last year was one of his biggest challenges and eventual triumphs in his time with Hudson. 

“To be able to pull it off and to be able to – basically a year from when the problem was discovered – turn on water with zero PFAS was pretty extraordinary,” he said.

According to the MetroWest Daily News, the Precision Coating Company facility on Parmenter Road was responsible for the Cranberry Bog well contamination. 

Hudson sued and reached a settlement agreement last fall with Precision Coating, Boyd Coating Research Co., which used to operate the site, and Dylan LLC, which is the property owner. 

As part of that settlement agreement, Precision gave Hudson ownership of its granulated activated carbon treatment system that had been removing PFAS from the Cranberry Bog Well. Additionally, all three parties would provide $1.6 million to the town’s maintenance and operation of the drinking water system. 

Moses said Precision paid for the filtration plant at the Cranberry Bog Well. 

However, operating costs at the Chestnut Street Well are on Hudson ratepayers. 

“Unlike Cranberry, the DEP has not identified a specific source yet for some of the elevated PFAS readings at the other wells,” Moses said during the April meeting. 

He said that DEP’s PFAS investigation throughout the commonwealth is ongoing.

“To the extent that other contributors to PFAS are discovered in our other wells, it is very likely that the town of Hudson would reengage our counsel and go after those parties to reimburse the costs for Chestnut,” Moses said.