Tank cover to rid wastewater odors

The wastewater treatment facility in Brattleboro.

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BRATTLEBORO — To further rid foul smells coming from the wastewater treatment plant, the digested sludge tank will get a cover.

"This goes back several years to the sewer plant upgrade," Brattleboro Highway/Utilities Superintendent Dan Tyler said during a special Select Board meeting held remotely Tuesday. "Following the upgrade, there were some community concerns about the odor, specifically in the downtown area in the Morningside area."

A 2018 odor analysis at the wastewater treatment facility by Bowker & Associates determined that the open storage tank for anaerobically digested sludge is the largest source of odors at the plant and a cover could eliminate the majority of the smells, according to a memo from Tyler. The tank is believed to be responsible for nearly half of the total odor emissions from the facility.

Since the study, odor-reducing measures were implemented. Tyler said the process and chemistry of the plant were altered.

"But it's really a delicate balance and it's costly," he said, noting that the budget for odor control is $50,000 for the current fiscal year.

His hope is that a cover will drastically cut down on those expenses and also lead to greater efficiencies. The tank is estimated to be about 40 feet in diameter and 25 feet deep.

Capital funding was previously allocated to designing and installing a cover for the tank. Aldrich & Elliott, an engineering group, was hired for the design and facilitated a bidding process.

On Tuesday, the Select Board approved a $147,500 bid that Aldrich + Elliott recommended from Neagley & Chase Construction of South Burlington. Tyler said of the four bids the town received, Neagley & Chase's was about $30,000 cheaper than the next lowest bid.

Currently, the tank doesn't have a cover. Board member Ian Goodnow wondered why it's taking so long to get one.

Town Manager Peter Elwell said town staff recommended hiring consulting engineers who specialize in wastewater plants and have experience in solving odor issues. Among the suggestions in the analysis, the tank cover was the most expensive.

"We aren't always as nimble, particularly with a capital improvement of this magnitude as we might like to be," he said. "But, as Dan pointed out, the lower hanging fruit have been implemented."

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The board approved engineering contracts with Dufresne Group to help during construction phases of projects to increase the capacity of water and sewer at the Exit 1 Industrial Park, and to create a new waste process water line from the Pleasant Valley Water Treatment Plant. Steve Barrett, director of public works, said the first project will increase overall capacity for fires and water main breaks. The Exit 1 system supplies water for businesses in that area, downtown and the Omega Optical campus.

The town agreed to pay Dufresne as much as $95,000 for the Exit 1 work and up to $20,670 for help with the water line. The federal Economic Development Administration provided $440,000 for the Exit 1 project.

Credited for their efforts in securing the grant were Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland and the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., which owns the industrial park.

Also approved by the board was a $74,472 engineering contract with Green International Affiliates Inc. as it develops reconstruction plans for Putney Road. Tyler said the Vermont Agency of Transportation's project is scheduled for five or six years from now and the agency contracted with Green for the design.

"As they've worked on the design, they've identified several areas where our utilities interfere with what they're proposing — and much like the Hinsdale bridge project, it's our responsibility to move them at our cost," Tyler said.

"They've identified about 2,100 feet of 16-inch water main, 625 feet of water services that connect those mains to customers, 1,000 feet of sewer main, various fire hydrants. And there's also an asbestos water main ... As part of this project, we'll eliminate that."

Tyler said Green estimates about $1.8 million will be needed to relocate utilities, which is included in a five-year capital plan.

Board member Tim Wessel noted that water and sewer projects are funded by utility fees rather than property taxes. Elwell suggested future federal coronavirus recovery funds might help with large infrastructure projects being developed by the town.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.