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WVN Newsletter #225: Town Center disposal challenge

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  • waylandvoters1
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2008
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      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
      shopping/housing/office project.

      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
      liability.

      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.

      WASTEWATER DILEMMA


      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
      authorities.

      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
      offenders.

      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
      (WWMDC).

      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
      needed.

      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
      self-supporting."

      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
      Raytheon site?

      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
      regulated proposition.

      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.
      (http://www.wickedlocal.com/marlborough/homepage/x1908589
      926).

      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
      coming from.

      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
      selectmen.

      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.

      SUIT THREAT

      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.

      WHITHER EFFLUENT?

      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
      discharge."

      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
      be evaluated.

      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.

      EXPAND CAPACITY?

      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.

      PLANT HISTORY

      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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