May 24, 2005

Waltham City Council OKs $6M Loan to Repair Sewers

In a unanimous vote the Waltham (Mass.) City Council approved taking out a loan of $6.26 million to meet the state mandate to clean up four of the city's sewer systems.
The sheer size of the expenditure was softened by an agreement to have a private developer pay for roughly $1.5 million of the cost. The city also got a favorable loan rate from the state for the majority of the loan.
Despite its size, however, there was no debate about the loan. If work does not get started on the sewer projects soon, the city will be subject to a $500 daily fine from the state Department of Environmental Protection for noncompliance and a possible lawsuit from the DEP for refusing to stop polluting local waterways with sewage.
The state is mandating the sewer projects because the sewer systems are at times overflowing and polluting the groundwater.
Because the city failed to comply with the DEP requests to fix its sewers in the in the past, the state put the city under an amended consent order in December.
According to City Engineer Joan Lastovica, all these sewer systems have problems with infiltration through broken or leaking pipes and excess inflow. Inflow consists of illegal connections to sewer pipes that allow storm water to flow into them. Lastovica said the extra stormwater, at times, make the pipes overflow.
On the bright side, because of an ordinance passed by the City Council earlier this year, in the end the entire cost of the project should cost taxpayers about $1.5 million less than it would otherwise.
The measure, called the Inflow and Infiltration Ordinance, requires developers to either pay a fee to the city to improve their sewer capacity or to fund their own sewer improvement projects in line with the city's plans.
In this case, the developers of the Metropolitan State Hospital site have agreed to fund the $1.5 million sewer rehabilitation project required by the state on their land. This marks the first time that the Inflow and Infiltration Ordinance has kicked in.