LANESBOROUGH — The town is under financial pressure to fix its sewer system, officials say, or face daily fines that could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Under a consent decree signed this year with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the town is ordered to put its municipal wastewater pipeline network into compliance with state regulations.
“Basically, it’s a complete failure,” said Town Manager Kelli Robbins.
Should the town violate any part of the consent decree, the municipality could face, for each violation, daily fines of $100 for the first 15 days, $250 the next 15 days and $500 each day beyond 31 days. If assessed the maximum amount of penalties, Lanesborough would have to pay $587,750, Robbins said.
According to the decree, MassDEP has been poised to fine Lanesborough $6,610 for noncompliance. The state agency says in the agreement that the penalty will be waived if the town meets the consent decree requirements within six months of it being signed.
Among the top issues are the town’s failure to monitor the amount of wastewater entering the system and to document that the system meets state and federal environmental regulations. The state has been seeking that information since 2016.
The system serves about 130 properties on the Lanesborough side of Pontoosuc Lake and the center of town. The town sewer lines are tied into the Pittsfield sewer system, with wastewater treated at the city’s municipal plant off Holmes Road.
Select Board Chairman John Goerlach said the noncompliance boils down to the town not accurately documenting how much wastewater is being treated.
”The only repairs were installing flow meters and doing paperwork,” he told The Eagle. “There’s no leaks in the system, nothing like that.”
Goerlach and Robbins say flow monitors will be installed where Lanesborough sewer pipes hook up to Pittsfield’s sewer system.
In addition, the town must “control discharges” of fats, oil and grease into the sewer system; prevent groundwater, stormwater runoff and subsurface drainage from getting into the pipelines and ensure that the property hookups into the system are in compliance.
Further, MassDEP is requiring an annual report from the town by March 31 on the average daily flow of wastewater in the town system, peak infiltration and peak daily flow.
The agency wants to make sure Lanesborough’s compliance meets the requirements of Pittsfield’s permit for its wastewater treatment facility.
The $30,000 initial cost of Lanesborough meeting the consent decree mandates is being covered by $10,000 already set aside from the Sewer Enterprise Fund and from the town’s Reserve Fund. Robbins asked for and received from the Finance Committee, at a recent Zoom meeting, a $20,000 transfer from the fund to pay for the flow meters and engineering. The account contains money set aside for unforeseen or unexpected expenses during the fiscal year.
Eventually, Lanesborough will spend a total of $103,000 to bring the sewer system into compliance over a 10-year period, Robbins said.
“The remaining to be spent in fiscal 2022 of $73,000 will be a combination of money from the Sewer Enterprise Fund in the amount of $30,000 and borrowing $43,000,” Robbins wrote in an email to The Eagle.
“The added cost in borrowing will run somewhere between $33 to $40 per year in user fees,” she said.
Kleinfelder, an engineering firm with an office in Springfield, was retained to oversee measures to bring the system into state compliance.
The Finance Committee voted 4-0, with Ronald Tinkham abstaining, to spend the $20,000.
”We need to do right now what Kelli wants,” committee member Robert Reilly said.
Robbins says voters at the annual town meeting in June will be asked to take money from the town’s Sewer Enterprise Fund to repay the Reserve Fund.