The perceived risks include the fear that the sewer plant could fail and the town would then be on the hook for this plant. The Committee consulted the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and determined they have no recorded incidents of sewage treatment plant failures.

Another perceived risk is that the sewer plant would not generate enough revenue to pay for the plant or operation. This has happened in neighboring towns, and we have learned from their experience. Risk is minimized for Littleton by conducting a thorough Preliminary Design Report, and, should the plant go to construction, by constructing the plant in phases and only constructing capacity as contracted demand occurs (Strategy p. 42). 

In its first phase, 30,000 gallons per day of new treatment capacity would be constructed at a cost of $4.3 million (pipes and treatment). If it proves to produce income, as the study suggests, an additional $3.2 million would be spent to add energy generation facilities. Combined, energy generation and user fees would be used to meet the $7.5 million obligation. In the alternative, user fees would meet the $4.3 million obligation (Strategy pp.64-68). If no further demand due to growth occurs, no further capital investment would be made.

If the plant is not built, development in the Town Common and industrial districts is limited. Due to the lack of wastewater capacity, existing property owners have few options. Property owners also face expensive repairs or replacements to their existing septic systems over time. 

Lacking wastewater options, it is less likely the Town will realize new property tax revenues from the Common district due to growth. 

Nitrate levels in groundwater in the Common are elevated and becoming a concern.  A sewer system would eliminate the problem.  By returning treated effluent to the ground in the watershed where the water was originally taken (Beaver Brook) the sewer system would restore some flow in the Brook, and its water quality would improve (Strategy p. 17).

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Mark Richards
05/07/2013 9:31am

Perhaps the Committee might first explain to us the difference between "Perceived Risks" and "Risks". The question, as framed, apparently seeks to communicate the idea that there are two classes of risk. One, the "perceived" kind, exists within the context of opposition to the proposed sewering. The other, in the form of simply "risk" (a contrasting absolute), is used when we fail to heed the clarion call of sewering.

Subliminal suggestion that any risks in sewering are simply errors of perception is unworthy. And framing the question is an old trick. Sorry, this won't pass.

It might be worthwhile to acknowledge that there surely a substantial risk in the potential waste of over one half million dollars. For this is the cost of the preliminary design report the Committee proposes we purchase and upon which the project will either sail, or sink.

What happens if its answer is "no go"? Queue the sound of a flush lever.

Perhaps this amount of cash seems trivial, but considering our collective community needs, the potential of throwing this amount of public money to the wind should demand a strong argument, one commensurate with the strong stomach it may take to accept its loss.

Who among our town boards and officials would care to grab hold of this anchor for the potentially long ride to the bottom? Should we as a community be forced to join along?

The Committee would do itself a credible service in (a) framing questions absent editorial tricks; (b) making certain that all the risks are acknowledged, not just those favourable to its cause; and (c) find a way to justify the more than $500,000 in public funds it aims to spend when it seems a simple napkin analysis suffices and when done brings the entire scheme to a singular conclusion which can perhaps best be stated with a simple plea: find another project.


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