3 area villages to get ARPA funds for wastewater projects Grafton, North & South Londonderry among 12 recipients

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Wastewater projects in three area villages — Grafton, South Londonderry and North Londonderry — will receive American Rescue Plan Act funding to the tune of almost $4 million each, Gov. Phil Scott announced last week. The funding, which is coming through the state’s Village Water and Wastewater Initiative, may include support for planning, design, land purchase or construction of active projects.

Alternatives for decentralized wastewater treatment <small>Image courtesy State of Vermont

Alternatives for decentralized wastewater treatment Image courtesy State of Vermont

In all, 12 villages in the state will receive funding. According to the state’s website, the Village Water Wastewater Initiative is meant to help municipalities develop new public drinking water systems and community wastewater disposal systems where that infrastructure is lacking.

“Investing in water, sewer and stormwater initiatives is key to revitalizing communities and spurring economic growth,” Scott said in a press release. “When you have the needed infrastructure, you can build more housing and open up more opportunities for businesses to grow.”

In Grafton, outgoing Town Administrator Bill Kearns told The Telegraph that the town has a $97,000 grant for a study to decide whether the town needs either a water or a wastewater system or both. Kearns noted that Grafton is focusing on wastewater because the town has good wells and a wastewater system would help keep them from being contaminated.

Kearns said Grafton expects the study to be done either late this year or early in 2023. Currently, Grafton is looking at the idea a wastewater district that would own all the septic tanks within its boundaries. Under this scenario, the tanks would be equipped with pumps to move the wastewater to a community leach field. The district would probably be responsible for pumping the tanks periodically. Currently, the town has an ordinance that septic tanks must be pumped every four years.

Londonderry, which is receiving almost $8 million for its two village districts, is also working on planning and engineering as the ARPA funds are being committed. Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe says that Londonderry also has received two planning grants and has been working on engineering and site selection for decentralized systems with septic fields for groups of users rather than a a centralized waste treatment facility.

O’Keefe called the grants a “once-in-a-generation funding opportunity that will enhance the sustainability of existing businesses and allow for business expansion.”

At its Sept. 12 meeting, Londonderry’s Select Board created a wastewater committee to work on the issue. There was some discussion on whether it should be a committee of the board — which would make it subject to the state’s Open Meeting Law —  or an unofficial working group. The Open Meeting Law ensures public access to its meetings by requiring the posting of agendas and minutes.

A cluster system is one alternative for decentralized wastewater treatment Courtesy EPA

A cluster system is one alternative for decentralized wastewater treatment Courtesy EPA

While the money has been committed to Grafton and Londonderry, there’s still some hoops to jump through to secure it. The towns will have to submit a grant for the funding (and the state is paying for a grant writer to do this), then the money for the work has to be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

Noting that Londonderry will be working with Dufresne Group on the engineering, O’Keefe acknowledged that there is a lot to do before the end of 2024.

“There are obligations we need to meet and we know we can do it,” said O’Keefe.

According to the governor’s press release, the ARPA money will be used in a “co-funding” model with the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, USDA – Rural Development support, Northern Border Regional Commission support or locally available funding. Co-funding means that ARPA dollars will be used to complement other funding sources to achieve affordability for the users of the system. The assistance will be primarily in the form of grants.

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