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Ruminations

Every once in a while you hear an idea that sounds good, until you actually take a good hard look at it.

For example, back in November, the Finance Committee asked the Board of Sewer Commissioners and the Sewer Department to start looking at extending the town's sewer lines to those homes that aren't connected yet.

It certainly sounds like a great idea, doesn't it? After all, if all the other homes are connected and the town's wastewater treatment plant has the capacity – and it does – then why shouldn't these homes get connected as well?

But, it's not that simple.

The Sewer Department said an estimated 1,200 homes in town rely on septic systems. Most of them are located in the upper Purchase Street area near Hopkinton and off East Main Street near the Holliston town line.

First of all, most of these homes are located in areas that aren't geographically suited to running "gravity" sewer lines. In other words, since "it" won't run downhill, it has to be pumped out of there. The Sewer Department and its engineering firm guesstimate that building three additional pumping stations—one on each side of upper Purchase St. and one on East Main St. – will cost $1 million each, for a total cost of $3 million.

Next, an estimated 96,000 linear feet of sewer mains would have to be purchased and installed in the 73 streets involved. The cost guesstimate is $400 per foot, for a total cost of $38.4 million.

And, you still need to factor in things like setting aside 15 percent of those costs for engineering designs and specifications and 10 percent for construction contingencies. That's another guesstimate of $10.4 million.

Now, we're at $51.8 million. That equates to about $43,167 per each of the 1,200 homes.

However, that leaves out one giant thing that has to be studied: Can the existing sewer mains and pumping stations between these 1,200 homes and the wastewater treatment plant handle the additional "flow" the 1,200 homes would generate?

The cost to have engineers study the system to determine that hasn't been calculated yet. The Finance Committee told the Sewer Department and sewer commissioners to let them know if it needed money to do that study. How nice of them to forget to mention that the Sewer Department's money comes from its users paying their sewer bills.

In other words, any major increase in the Sewer Department's costs would mean higher rates and higher sewer bills for the people already on sewers.

And, no one seems to be asking the one question that should be asked: Why didn't the builders of all these 1,200 homes put in the sewer mains and connections when they built the homes? That's what's happened in the rest of town. Maybe the answer is that it was too expensive, given the terrain and the costs involved.

And, there's one other question that should be asked: How many members of the Finance Committee actively pushing this idea live in homes that aren't connected to the sewer system?




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