Town officials cut the toilet paper at the opening of the new $32 million wastewater treatment plant Friday. (Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)
Town officials cut the toilet paper at the opening of the new $32 million wastewater treatment plant Friday. (Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)
Saturday March 23, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The biggest news, possibly, about the town's new $32 million waste water treatment plant is that there was very little news to report during its construction.

The massive project was carried out over the past couple of years without causing any disruptions to the 24-hour-a-day operations at the plant.

In the end, work was done close to schedule and under budget.

And even Tropical Storm Irene, which caused about $1.8 million worth of damage to the town's infrastructure, failed to delay the project.

"This project represents a lot of dedication by the town's staff to work through some hard times," Town Manager Barbara Sondag said as town officials and workers involved with the project officially dedicated the new plant Friday. "The fact that the plant never shut down during the more than two years is truly remarkable. This did not happen by accident."

Sondag said that while the project was done relatively quietly, it marked an important milestone for the town as it tries to increase economic development.

When large businesses want to come to town, one of the first questions that is asked is if the town can handle large amounts of wastewater.

Brattleboro, she said, can now answer "yes" to that question.

Selectboard Chairman Dick DeGray, in what was one of his final acts as a member of the board, held the ceremonial scissors as he cut through a ribbon of toilet paper to mark the official opening of the new plant.

He was joined by present and past board members, town staff and workers who took part in the project.

DeGray recognized all of the work that has gone into completing the project, going all the way back to 2009 when town meeting representatives approved the $32.8 million bond for the project.

He also said the citizen committee that met every month to meet with town officials, engineers and workers played a crucial role in overseeing the project.

"You were the eyes and the ears for the board on this," said DeGray.

The state of the art treatment plant uses a number of green technologies including solar panels to heat the water, heat collectors which reuse the heat formed during the treatment process and a methane convertor which traps the gas and uses it to run some of the machinery.

Agency of Natural Resources Construction Engineer Mike Carey said that in the 35 years he has worked for the state, the Brattleboro project has had the smallest percentage of change orders of any major project.

The state figures contingencies into all projects, and he said it was astonishing that a project this large came in under budget.

And Hoyle, Tanner & Associates Senior Vice President Gene Forbes said Brattleboro's commitment to investing in the most up-to-date environmental technologies left the town with a plant that others in the state and region will study for years to come.

Public Works Director Steve Barrett said the new plant sits on the same site where the town used to dump its treated water directly into the Connecticut River.

The new gleaming machinery which now treats the town's waste while using less energy protects the environment to an even greater extent than the former plant.

"It's hard to even believe the way we used to do this," said Barrett. "We've come a long way."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at Some of the new machinery at work in Brattleboro's new $32 million wastewater treatment plant. (Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)