News, Wolcott

Wolcott’s Wastewater Woes to be Washed Away

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WOLCOTT – Voters last month approved two measures clearing the way for design and construction of a wastewater treatment system expected to serve about 35 town residents, plus businesses and municipal offices.

courtesy photo
Wolcott’s proposed wastewater system design map shows the route in purple with a red line up the hill to the one acre disposal field under Wolcott Elementary School’s athletic fields.

The vote on the project, expected to cost $4.5 million, was likely helped when the town learned that the project’s final $1.4 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds were approved only a week before the vote, meaning the project would not require town funds to complete.

On June 11, voters, by a vote of 125-75, “authorized the design, construction, and installation of a community wastewater disposal system serving the designated Wolcott village center and property within one-quarter mile of it,” along with approval for the town to take on $4,424,230 in debt to cover the estimated project costs.

The debt is mostly a formality, as costs of the project are expected to be fully funded by ARPA, grants from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Vermont Clean Water Revolving Fund and an expected grant from the Northern Borders Regional Commission.

The project is critical because the lack of soil to support adequate septic systems has prevented businesses and multi-family housing development in the village, located in the Lamoille River valley, from expanding.

Once complete, one- and two-bedroom residences will pay a fee that Jim Ryan, chair of the town’s wastewater committee expects will be about $25. Larger residences will be about $40. The fee for commercial and municipal hookups will be based on state figures depending on the expected demand, says Ryan, who explained that the pricing structure has been developed to help keep it affordable for residents.

The fees will allow the town to build up a reserve fund to cover system maintenance and the pumping of septic tanks installed at each served location every three years.

The project is relatively unique in that each location served by the system will have its own septic tank, where solids will be deposited. Pumps located beside School Street, just past Flatiron Road, will move the liquid effluent through pipes to one acre of leach fields under the school’s athletic fields.

The system design is possible because the school’s sandy soil is perfect for a leach field, which most properties in the village do not have available, says Ryan. School district voters confirmed the school board’s earlier approval 88-20. Ryan said, it is an ideal way for the town and school district to cooperate, since the town gave the property to the district some time ago.

He notes that residents’ concerns about possible dangers to students were addressed by visits to a similar system in Warren that was installed 20 years ago and operates well.

Limitations of the town’s soil, which has prevented development in the village center, will be overcome by the septic tank and pump system. That design will not require the wastewater treatment lagoons required by systems in nearby Hardwick and Morrisville that do not include individual septic tanks, says Ryan.

He says that means a proposed housing development at the Nazarene Church will be able to proceed, as will expansion at the store and perhaps elsewhere in the village.

The wastewater project is dependent on the new School Street bridge, expected to be installed in 2025, because piping will travel across the river with it, says Ryan. That work will allow the system to be completed and operating in 2026.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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