BRATTLEBORO — Local approval for big upgrades to the town’s water treatment facility was secured in a 7-0 vote from the Development Review Board.
“Everything looks as if it was put together rather thoughtfully,” DRB member Michael Averill said during a hearing held remotely Wednesday.
The DRB’s decision has 15 conditions requiring state permits, asbestos inspections with abatement if needed, lead-safe certified contractors and specific lighting standards. The site also will need a bike rack and an electric vehicle charging station.
Steve Barrett, director of Brattleboro Department of Public Works, said the facility was built in 1989 and expected to last about 20 years. Previously, the town had no filtration system for its public water system.
Barrett said the new facility “will help us have the tools to deliver drinking water to the citizens of Brattleboro,” Algiers in Guilford and several buildings in Dummerston. He noted the system provides between 1.2 to 1.3 million gallons of drinking water each day to the community and serves as the primary source of water for fire protection in Brattleboro.
Barrett began exploring the project around 2000.
“It’s pretty exciting to move forward with it,” he said.
Chrissy Haskins, engineer with Dufresne & Associates, said the new 130-by-70-foot facility will house all the chemical feed systems, filtration tanks, blowers, and lab and office spaces. The old one will be demolished.
Haskin described the new building having the same “neutral-colored block appearance” as the existing one. Downcast lights are proposed to run on motion sensors.
A three-bay 40-by-30-foot garage will hold equipment currently stored outside and other items, Haskins said. The space also will be used for maintenance projects.
Haskins said three filters are set to be rehabilitated and moved into the new facility. A fourth filter will be added, allowing the facility to go back to operating as a plant with capacity to hold 3 million gallons of water per day as it was originally designed.
Regulatory changes in 2011 reduced the plant to holding 2 million gallons a day, Haskins said.
The plan calls for moving a parking area to the west, building a new driveway and a retaining wall. A diesel generator will be replaced with propane generator that’s anticipated to be quieter. A chemical feed building will be demolished and replaced with grass.
A new sewer line extension will bring wastewater from the facility to the town’s wastewater treatment plant. Lagoons used for processing waste at the site will be eliminated.
Haskins anticipates construction will take about 12 to 18 months and could start as early as June. She said a lot of equipment, pumps and filters will be needed for the project.
“COVID has definitely made an impact on lead times,” she said. “We could have a shutdown where construction stops at some point if we need to.”
Barrett said several informational meetings will be scheduled before residents vote in March on authorizing the town to secure financing. He’s looking at a low-interest loan from the state with potential loan forgiveness
“We’re coming up with those strategies now,” he said.
Barrett recalled residents voting down financing for the water plant before it was first built, delaying the projects for a few years.
“Back then,” he said, “people didn’t believe we needed to treat the water.”
Gina Drescher, new to the neighborhood, was assured the project would be safe and stick to construction hours allowed under town ordinances.
Act 250, stormwater and general construction permits will be required from the state, Zoning Administrator Brian Bannon told the Reformer.