Options for sewering Great Road discussed

August 19, 2023

At their August 16, 2023 meeting, Acton’s Water Resources Advisory Committee (WRAC) discussed and critiqued the July 2023 draft of the Great Road Wastewater Solutions report.  The report was commissioned by the town and prepared by environmental engineering firm Wright-Pierce for the purpose of providing “a technical basis upon which to make wastewater and water resource management decisions necessary for the expansion of the Town’s wastewater and water infrastructure for the future development and redevelopment of the Great Road Corridor.” The scope of the study spans a corridor along Great Road (Rt 2A) from the Concord town line to slightly west of Rt 27 (Main St). 

The report begins by estimating the amount of wastewater that is produced by the parcels along this corridor, plus the amount of additional wastewater that could be produced if some undeveloped parcels were developed and other parcels shifted to more water-intensive uses.  The report then explores two main options for handling the anticipated volume of wastewater: (1) connecting to the town’s existing sewer network for treatment by the Middle Fort Pond Brook Wastewater Treatment plant (MFPB WWTP) in South Acton and (2) creating a new, decentralized wastewater treatment plant specifically to handle wastewater from the Great Road corridor. 

There are two potential routes for connecting to the existing sewer network (see map).  The eastern potential route (estimated cost, $46 million) goes along Wetherbee Street, School Street, and Parker Street. The western potential route (estimated cost, $53 million) travels along Brook Street and then along Rt 27.  These costs do not include upgrading the MFPB WWTF or providing additional effluent disposal capacity.

Two maps side by side, each showing a dashed line extending from Rt2A to "existing sewer."
Maps showing the two routes by which the Great Road corridor might be connected to the existing town sewer. Maps adapted by Kim Kastens from Great Road Corridor Wastewater Solutions report.

Six potential sites were initially identified for a decentralized treatment plant and associated infiltration beds,  Of these, the only areas with enough acreage of suitable soil were Morrison Farm on Concord Road, an area along Wetherbee Street, and an area within the WR Grace Superfund Site.   

The WRAC meeting opened with public comments.  The public comments were all in opposition to the use of Morrison Farm or the Wetherbee Road area for waste water disposal.  Individuals associated with the Acton Conservation Trust and the town Land Steward Committee praised the value of these open spaces for wildlife habitat, organic gardening, and conservation. 

Following public comments, the five WRAC members raised a wide range of additional issues, spanning hydrology, technology, and cost/benefit.  They raised the possibility that waste water disposal on the W.R.Grace site could alter the groundwater flow in a way that might interfere with the Superfund remediation process. They noted that the western route down to the existing sewer network would likely require many of the parcels along the way to install grinder pumps rather than gravity feed sewer lines, and such systems are expensive and prone to failure.  They questioned the economic benefits relative to the magnitude of the investment and asked for further documentation of the actual or expressed need for sewering from existing or potential property owners along the corridor. 

WRAC is scheduled to finalize their written comments on the Great Road Wastewater Solutions report at their meeting of August 22.  After that, the report is expected to come before the Sewer Commission, which, in Acton, is the Select Board. Watch the Select Board meeting notices for your next chance to offer public comment on this report.  [Editor’s Note: WRAC discussed the report and submitted comments.]

Kim Kastens is a writer and editor for the Acton Exchange, and also chairs the Green Acton Water Committee.


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