Westborough imposes sewer moratorium

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Westborough imposes sewer moratorium
Drone photography shows the Westborough Wastewater Treatment Plant. Westborough has implemented a sewer moratorium. (Photo/Tami White)

WESTBOROUGH – It’s official – Westborough will have a sewer moratorium for the next year.

During its meeting on April 9, the Select Board voted to approve the Department of Public Works’ (DPW) request to impose restrictions on new sewer connections and expansions.

In part, the moratorium exists “… to protect the integrity of the town sanitary system by prohibiting new connections, system expansions, and increases in flow for a temporary period of time … to determine whether and upon what terms and conditions such increases in flow may be permitted in the future,” it reads.

At issue is exactly how much flow is being allocated, and how much remains to be allocated. According to DPW Director Chris Payant, the town is allowed up to 2.89 million gallons per day (mgd) of wastewater to flow to the treatment plant, which is also used by Shrewsbury and Hopkinton. The average daily flow for Westborough is 2.27 mgd.

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Over the years, as residential and commercial developments went online and connected to town sewers, the exact amount of flow and allocation became obscured.

“We gave away flow very easily and we didn’t keep track,” said Town Engineer Lisa Allain.

Over the past 18 months, Allain has compiled information on the sewer allocations for each commercial property in town – some of which date back decades. That information is now with a consultant; Payant said a “memo with a table” will be available in June, and a draft will be circulated among town boards.

The moratorium will give the town time to “better understand the problem” and come up with a plan to better allocate sewer flow for residential and commercial properties.

“This is a very complex issue,” said Payant. “It’s not good news, but it needs to be done.”

Some board members were dismayed at voting on a moratorium, but said it was a necessary move.

“The whole thing stinks, but we have to do this,” said Vice Chair Ian Johnson.

Exceptions

The town will allow several exceptions under the new moratorium, including existing single-family residences with a failed septic, per the Board of Health; a change in use that does not increase allocated flow and the expansion of residential dwelling with fewer than four bedrooms and will not exceed four bedrooms.

Exceptions also cover if a property does not use the full amount allocated, and the increase does not exceed allocation. Additionally, there will be an exception if the property is not connected, but the flow allocated through fees or permit doesn’t result in an increase above the allocation.

There will also be an exception for new construction of a residential dwelling with four bedrooms or fewer, and property abuts public way with existing sewer line.

 

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