WVN Newsletter #225: Town Center disposal challenge
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The latest critical complication to arise over the Town Center
development on Route 20 has been there all along. It's what to
do with the waste water produced by the 372,500-square-foot
Yet some selectmen seemed surprised and angered to learn
that a new treatment plant can't be built without state and federal
approval. And it isn't clear what will be allowed in the
environmentally sensitive and contaminated area near town
wells, wetlands and the Sudbury River.
When the chairman of Wayland's Waste Water Management
District Commission delivered the unwelcome (though
unsurprising) news, the first reaction of some selectmen was to
shoot at the messenger. Soon after, Blair Davies was no longer
chairman. But the problem remains and may not be resolved
quickly. The developer threatens a lawsuit.
As a result, the Planning Board is under pressure to issue a
Master Special Permit this month to the developer, Twenty
Wayland, without answers to still more crucial questions. Some
municipalities approve projects based on a specific plan.
Wayland's Planning Board, though, doesn't know how many
buildings there will be, exactly where they will be, what they will
look like, how the resulting traffic will be dealt with, and now how
waste will be disposed of.
One thing is clear: the Board of Selectmen, which has often
danced to the developers' tune, agreed long ago that the town
would be responsible for building a new treatment plant,
estimated to cost up to $4 million. Twenty Wayland will use more
than two-thirds of the capacity and will pay a proportional share,
but only over time. The town will bear the initial cost and the
Read the report by Molly Upton below this summary and
chances are you'll know more about waste water and its vital
importance in the project than you ever expected to.
The Wayland Wastewater District Management Commission will
meet with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental
Protection to try to solve the riddle of how the successor
wastewater plant can be permitted and designed. Its consultant,
Weston and Sampson, will draft a plan for submittal to regulatory
Under threat of a suit from Twenty Wayland, the Board of
Selectmen has instructed the Commission to find a solution
quickly. This raises the possibility that an expedient solution
could be a waiver from the regulatory authorities. However,
waivers don't always last forever; regulators have been known to
later terminate the waiver, enforce the regulations and fine
A solution is not necessarily obvious, especially when it
involves wastewater near a river and a town's wells, not to
mention a contaminated site.
From the beginning, the Twenty Wayland developers decided
that the town would be the applicant for a wastewater permit.
Why, given the size of the development and the obvious criticality
of wastewater disposal? In other projects, these and other
developers have constructed their own wastewater facilities.
One possibility is that a municipality might have a better chance
than a developer of getting a permit for an existing plant in a
sensitive location. So, although the developer will be assessed
its share of the plant's design, construction and operation, the
applicant is the Wastewater Management District Commission
In a contentious meeting Nov. 26 attended by the developer, the
Board of Selectmen was unwilling to broach the subject of
financing a new plant. All consultants agree a new plant is
Last summer, the developer surprised many by saying it has no
intention of paying upfront its share (about 68 percent) of the
estimated $3.4-$4 million cost for a new plant, but rather will pay
the principal and interest over time, as will the smaller users.
This means the town has to allocate from its debt capacity the
total amount for the plant.
This raises the question: just how much debt capacity the town
has if it is to maintain its AAA Moody's bond rating? Is the Board
of Selectmen willing to facilitate major town capital expenditures
by asking the developer to pay up front its share of capital costs?
Finance Committee Chair Cherry Karlson told WVN, "We have
plenty of room in our debt capacity. It is generally a question of
whether or not we want to use it and whether or not it is smart to
use it. That's one of the components we will look at in our capital
improvement plan as we address new projects."
Town treasurer Mike DiPietro explained that Moody's views debt
incurred by departments with rate-paying customers slightly
differently than that of the town as a whole, so it shouldn't impact
Wayland's debt capacity. However, he agreed it would be great if
the developer would pay upfront.
Two considerations: Since Twenty Wayland is responsible for
about 68% of the debt and interest, should the town ensure
payment from Twenty Wayland? And, given the majority of debt
owed by one party, will Moody's view the debt as that of a
rate-paying agency or the town?
The January 2007 report from Moody's issued an AAA rating "with
negative outlook" and cited "a favorable debt burden achieved
through conservative debt management practices" as a factor in
the town's AAA rating. It also said the town's capital improvement
plan calls for $43 million to be issued over the next five years for
various capital needs. Approximately $12 million will be for
upgrades to the water department and is expected to be
The developer will pay upfront up to $150,000 for the costs to be
borne by the town for those town buildings that have a right to
use the facility.
WHY SO DIFFICULT?
Why is there difficulty obtaining a permit for Wayland's
Wastewater Treatment Plant to handle expected capacity from
Twenty Wayland's proposed development on the former
The evolving saga reads like a mystery compounded by politics
and technical dilemmas.
Before we begin sleuthing, we must digest some basics.
A. Any funding or expenses involved in the current or future
wastewater facility are borne by the stakeholders (per the article
creating the WWDMC at annual Town Meeting, April 1996.)
B. Currently the Commission's plant handles about 8,000
gallons per day. When the Raytheon office building was
occupied, its allocated capacity was 45,000.
C. The DEP's permit for the plant to operate expired five years
ago, and has not been renewed, despite repeated applications
by the Commission. To complicate matters, both the federal
Environmental Protection Agency and DEP have purview over a
new permit, and each has different requirements.
D. There are three routes for treated waste disposal: into the
ground, the wetlands (the current location) or the Sudbury River.
Each carries its own requirements for treatment.
E. The Twenty Wayland site is pocked with contamination that
Raytheon is working hard to ameliorate. The proximity to
Wayland's wells might make Raytheon averse to permitting
ground discharge as the increased flow could change how
rapidly toxic particles travel, and in what direction. Remember
also, the site is near the Baldwin wells.
F. Discharging wastewater into or near a river is a highly
The Sudbury River has been found to be high in nitrogen and
there could be limits set on the discharge of nitrogen into the
river. Phosphorus is also always an issue when discharging
anywhere near a river. There are now strict standards on the
amount of metals that can be discharged to the wetlands. These
factors could determine the type of treatment (and expense) or
complicate the permitting.
The town of Marlboro is encountering the DEP in its efforts to
increase its wastewater flow to the Assabet River.
G. Characteristics of effluent, and type of treatment, are
dependent on the source: household usage is one type,
restaurants another, mudbaths still another. Selectman Michael
Tichnor, as he excoriated the Commission Nov. 26 for the lack of
a new permit, demonstrated ignorance of this elementary fact as
he asserted that the plant doesn't care where its wastewater is
H. Factors to be considered in a new plant's design include:
destination of discharge, composition of effluent, and capacity.
POLITICS AND DEP'S LARGER ROLE
It is possible the DEP will not grandfather the developer's ability
to discharge 45,000 gallons to the plant (WWTP). The DEP
signaled in its comments on the withdrawn Final Environmental
Impact Report (FEIR) filed by Twenty Wayland that it can regard
providing capacity for a mixed- use complex in a different light
than for a pre-existing office building.
DEP said that since the application lacked the consultant's
assessment study, as DEP had requested, and the fact the
combined capacity would "result in violations of one or more
parameters of the existing NPDES (National Pollution Discharge
Elimination System) effluent limitations," DEP "will be exercising
its authority under 314 CMR 7.04 to require a Mass DEP sewer
connection permit prior to any construction or use of any sewer
system to convey wastewater to the Wayland WWTP."
The FEIR will be resubmitted, so another round of comments
from DEP and citizens will be forthcoming. In the meantime,
Twenty Wayland's attorneys have been meeting with DEP.
The selectmen took it upon themselves to include in the
development agreement the guarantee that Twenty Wayland
would be provided 45,000 gallons per day wastewater capacity.
The unoccupied office building has an allocation of 45,000
gallon/day from a memorandum of agreement in 1999, and has
not used this full capacity for several years. The development
agreement was not voted upon at Town Meeting and can be
changed by agreement between the developers and the
In their rush to cement a development agreement, the selectmen
apparently did not examine whether the original agreement to
supply the office building with 45,000 gallons was binding, or
even possible given the new regulatory climate.
Representatives from Twenty Wayland have threatened to sue
the town if the 45,000 gallon capacity isn't provided. This raises
the question of why Wayland taxpayers should be subject to
legal fees and possible penalties for a facility that serves a
limited number of users. Regardless of the merits of the threat,
the BOS has instructed the WWMDC to provide a solution as
soon as possible. At the Nov. 26 Meeting the BOS showed a
remarkable ignorance of the fact that the entire Town Center
project needs to be approved through the Massachusetts
Environmental Protection Act process.
In venting frustration, and pressured by the developers in the
audience, the Selectmen berated WWMDC (now former) chair
Blair Davies for his letter to MEPA in which he had laid out many
of the complex issues for handling the promised 45,000 gallons
and observed that the permits should be synchronized for the
Town Center and the wastewater plant to protect the town from a
lawsuit. Davies comments stated: "Approval of the FEIR, without
ensuring that a satisfactory wastewater solution has been found,
puts the Town of Wayland in the position of being sued for
breach of contract, despite the fact that it cannot control DEP and
EPA's actions in this matter."
He suggested MEPA "require that all stake-holders (proponent,
EPA, DEP, WWMDC) negotiate an agreement which ensures an
environmentally protective solution and guards against shifting
the financial responsibility for this project onto the residents of
the Town of Wayland."
To further make its case to the WWMDC, Twenty Wayland
principal Dean Stratouly held a meeting Dec. 13 of users of the
wastewater plant at the Sky Restaurant. This group then
attended the WWMDC meeting. The new chair of the committee
is Dave Scofield, replacing Blair Davies.
The developer agreement called for Twenty Wayland to have a
consultant review the condition of the plant. Metcalfe and Eddy's
report found that regarding discharge to the wetlands, metals in
the existing Wayland water supply could make it problematic to
comply with a future NPDES permit. It said, "Thus, the long-term
solution appears to be either a river discharge or a groundwater
In groundwater discharge, there would be limits on nitrogen
because of the site's location within Zone 2 of the wellhead, the
report notes. In addition, the site's characteristics of
"stratigraphy, infiltration rate, and extent of groundwater
mounding under projected operating conditions" would have to
At Raytheon's recent information session to bring residents up
to date on its continuing environmental cleanup, the Raytheon
representative seemed surprised when asked if the site could
handle a large amount of wastewater discharge. He said
mounding could be problematic with subsurface flows.
Mounding, the creation of elevated underground water levels,
could push contaminents toward town wells. The site is in a
Zone II, near the wells, and throughout its lengthy cleanup
process, Raytheon has tried to both remove contaminants and
track the groundwater flow to determine the possible impact on
town wells. Continuing to discharge to the wetlands could
involve an expensive process to eliminate the metals in
Wayland's water supply.
Twenty Wayland, and the selectmen, would like the new plant to
be permitted immediately, before any further progress is made
on the Town Center project. The developer keeps repeating
"we're entitled to that flow tomorrow." But DEP and EPA may be
waiting to see exactly what kind of businesses (wastewater
generators) are in fact planned for the site, to decide on an
acceptable strategy. Some generators may contribute few
metals, others little nitrogen, etc, making one approach or
another more acceptable.
Since Twenty Wayland needs nearly 55,000 gallons per day, one
possibility would be to permit the new plant to take the additional
capacity, eliminating the use of a proposed 9,900 gallon septic
system. This would increase 20 Wayland's share of the fees and
eliminate the proposed septic system on sensitive property.
Raytheon owned and operated the plant for the exclusive use of
the office building. When occupancy rates fell, the town in 1999
acquired the plant by eminent domain from Stratouly's company,
Congress Group, which owned the property then. There are 41
properties with rights to the system, 12 of which have yet to
connect. The town building and library are in the latter category.
The wording in the article establishing the Wayland Wastewater
Management District requires its activities to be "growth neutral."
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Michael Short, Editor