Board discusses sewer projects


WESTFIELD – The Board of Public Works questioned City Engineer Mark Cressotti Tuesday night about the city’s current and long range plans to expand new or improve existing sewer lines.
Cressotti said the city has two funding options for sewer projects which can be extremely expensive. One of those options is the traditional bonding approach, while the other is a special dedicated account created by the city as a provision of the state Department of Environmental Protection permitting process for expansion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Neck Road. The reserve account is funded through sewer fees.
The DEP was concerned about the volume of groundwater seeping into the sewer lines and being treated, a costly process, at the city treatment plant, urging the city to create the Infiltration and Inflow (I&I) account, money used to repair or replace existing sewer lines that allow infiltration of groundwater.
One of the projects being funded from the I&I account is the Gas Light District project which carries a total estimated cost of $5 million. The sewer replacement work will be funded with $2.75 million from the I&I account. That project is in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, between Elm and Washington Streets and between Franklin and Court streets.
“The gaslight is the next sewer project,” Cressotti said. “It’s the Ward 3 improvement, an area that qualifies for the I&I funding because studies have shown the area to have high infiltration rates. The current sewer system in that area does not support development.”
Cressotti also discussed sewer projects throughout the city, both I&I-funded as well as bond-funded work, with priorities set by the mayor and the City Council, in particular the ward representatives.
“Bonding is not always a palatable option, but you have to build up the I&I account over two or three years to build sufficient funding to do a significant project,” Cressotti said.
BPW Chairman John Sullivan initiated the sewer project and schedule discussion by asking about the sewer extension project into the Plantation Circle. The city is planning to construct a 1,600-foot extension of the existing sewer line serving the Radisson Lane neighborhood into Plantation Circle.
That sewer extension project has been a proposal on the table for nearly 15 years and has been a politically sensitive issue because of environmental impacts.
There have been several options discussed over the years, put the line under Ashley Brook, or bridge the line over the brook. Both options had advantages and disadvantages as well as cost impacts.
The Engineering Department presented a plan to the Conservation Commission in December of 2011 that called for installation of a large culvert through which the brook would flow. The culvert would then be covered with soil and the gravity sewer line buried for protection against the elements. That proposal was not well received by the Conservation Commission or the DEP.
“We’ve decided to go another route, rather than the gravity sewer system, which has a huge environmental impact,” Cressotti said. “We’re looking to move to a pumping station and going under the brook, a proposal that carries a significant cost for constructing the pumping station, but which has much less impact on the environment.”
Cressotti said the city is preparing the engineering plans and environmental impact documents for that approach which will need to be reviewed by the Conservation Commission.
Sullivan question how the new approach will affect the project timeline, which, Cressotti said will be delayed.
“Those residents want to know that we’re moving forward, that the city and this board are being proactive about this project,” Sullivan said.

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