BRATTLEBORO — A gravity fed sewer line from Black Mountain Road has given the town a tough time.
When planning the rebuild of the wastewater treatment plant in 2012, the piping was seen as a cost effective option compared to having a pump station where replacement parts and ongoing maintenance costs could get expensive. But now, officials aren't so sure.
"Difficulties with execution of the contract reached a point where we might need to at least consider terminating the contract," Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said at Tuesday's meeting. "We gave notice of that potential, which is a relatively unprecedented step in the construction industry."
Nearly $900,000 was spent on the project. Kingsbury Construction built the line and approximately $80,000 went towards paying Hoyle, Tanner & Associates for engineering services.
Kingsbury installed a sewer pipe sleeve going from the VFW on Black Mountain Road under Interstate 91 to the Black Mountain Mobile Home Park using trenchless technologies, a memo from the Department of Works stated. Approximately two-thirds of the contract was paid for but the pipeline did not meet design criteria. The town stopped making payments to Kingsbury until the sewer line is operational.
Several town officials are involved in bringing the line's construction to a successful completion, Gartenstein said, and they were hoping to avoid litigation. Negotiations to fix aspects of the project are ongoing.
One part, involving a directional drilled sewer line running east to west under I-91, does meet the town's specifications. A connector from that line going to the main system does not meet the criteria.
The project affected businesses in September when stormwater from an intense rainfall overwhelmed the wastewater system, causing flooding in Black Mountain Square shops. The line had not been installed yet, however its sleeve was set up. Rain went into the sleeve and the system failed.
The engineering firm has already done about $100,000 of work for which they haven't yet been paid, said Gartenstein. Another four or five months of the firm's services will likely be needed.
"We're confident there can be an engineered solution down below," said Town Manager Peter Elwell, referring to an area of the pipeline at a manhole near the VFW. "The second portion (upstream to Black Mountain Mobile Home Park) is where we think that it's more likely to be a negotiated settlement in order to bring the project and contract to a successful end."
At least a portion of the fees approved Tuesday would be sought in the negotiation, he told the board.
The board also approved of spending $22,574 on a new screw system and conveyor line for the wastewater treatment plant. Department of Public Works Director Steve Barrett said the equipment serves as the front line of treatment at the plant. Annually, over 400 million gallons of wastewater is processed there and the rest of the system is protected by that piece of equipment.
"It takes all the heavy abrasives, all the rags and all the material that comes from the sewer into the treatment plant. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Barrett. "Also, we took in 2 million gallons of septic and that came from septic tanks in the region, in Windham County."
The equipment was installed when upgrades were made to the plant in 2012. While alternative methods will be explored, the replacement was not seen as a loss.
In fees collected for septic services alone, Barrett said the town brought in $160,000 last year or a daily average of $438. The cost of the conveyor cost the town $20.61 each day.
The revenue source involves septic haulers pumping and maintaining septic tanks not located near the plant. Residents of Brattleboro and other towns may not be able to connect to municipal centers.
"They take it to the treatment plant," Barrett told the Reformer. "When we built it, we did it so we could accommodate waste."
The charge for dumping the tanks is approximately 8 cents a gallon at the plant.
Asked whether replacements would be needed as regularly in the future, Barrett said, "I would suspect this is going to be part of the operation" and recommended anticipating it in the capital plan.