Hoosac to pay $140,000 fine for EPA water violations

By Glenn Drohan
Berkshire Eagle Staff

Wednesday, July 09, 2003 -
NORTH ADAMS -- Mayor John Barrett III announced he has signed a "consent decree" that calls for a $140,000 fine for the district's continued violations of the Clean Water Act.

Barrett said he reluctantly signed the decree last week after fierce negotiations with federal and state officials over three years.

The decree, which is essentially an out-of-court settlement, mandates that Williamstown and North Adams each pay $70,000 over three years to the EPA for violations at the district's waste-water treatment plant off Simonds Road, which the two communities share.

Improvements mandated

It also calls for a strict schedule of plant improvements over the next three to five years, which engineers have estimated could cost up to $12 million, but which Barrett said should be more like $4 million to $6 million. The improvements will be necessary to reduce the plant's discharge of waste water into the Hoosic River.

Also as part of the decree, the district will be required to make immediate plant improvements, such as replacing defective equipment, and to repair part of its "interceptor line," the main line that connects to the plant after collecting waste from city and town lines. That work has already begun, at a cost of $1,020,000, for which the district received an SRF loan.

Push for privatization

The long-term requirements of the decree will force the district to perform engineering work to determine what improvements are needed to bring the plant into compliance with its waste-water discharge permit and then make those improvements, with the two communities sharing the cost.

Tighe & Bond Engineering, the district's consultant, has estimated the cost at between $10 million and $12 million, which Barrett said was "highly inflated." Plant Manager Ridelto "Rusty" Nodal said he does not believe the price will be that high, but he questioned where Barrett got his figures of $4 million to $6 million.

Barrett said he based his estimate on information from the city's consultants as well as comments by officials of one of the private companies interested in taking over plant operations.

The mayor continued to push for privatization of the plant, which he said will reduce operating costs and make a private company assume all the risks the two communities have been taking, including the potential for future fines. He repeated his familiar charge that the district has been badly managed since the plant opened in 1976.

He also blasted Nodal for failing to make public recent proposals submitted by two firms, USFilter of Norwell, and Aquarian Services Co. of Londonderry, N.H., for the plant's privatization. But Nodal said he was acting on the advice of the district counsel, Philip Grandchamp, in keeping the specifics of the proposals private, pending review by a negotiating committee.

Town Manager Fohlin said he, too, would like to know more about the proposals, but he defended Nodal, who began work a little over six months ago.