Wastewater plant under review

River requires better-treated — but potentially more costly — effluent

GREENVILLE — In order to avoid millions of dollars in facility upgrades, the town of Greenville has been struggling to meet chemical standards in its wastewater effluent. It’s a task that may become significantly more difficult with the expiration of a state administrative order that has allowed the wastewater treatment plant to operate under less stringent standards.

The wastewater treatment plant is required to meet certain state standards when it comes to the amount of chemicals such as nitrogen, aluminum and copper that are in the effluent that is discharged into the Souhegan River. Because the Souhegan is a particularly slow-moving body of water and does not disperse the chemicals quickly, the standards for effluent discharge in Greenville are more stringent, explained Select Board member Carla Mary during a Select Board meeting Wednesday.

For the past several years, the town has not been able to meet the levels laid out in its operating permit, and has instead been operating under higher levels specified by an administrative order issued by the state.

Using a chemical piloting program, the town has been attempting to mitigate the chemical levels, and has begun to get close to maintaining steady chemical levels, Town Administrator Kelley Collins told the board. “We’re a long way from meeting our permit levels,” she said. “We were close with the administrative order, and meeting it most months.”

With the expiration of the administrative order, the town will automatically be beholden to its original, and more stringent, operating permit.

The board agreed that the town should contact counsel to attempt to bring the wastewater treatment plant back under administrative order, while they continue to seek solutions to the excess chemicals in the wastewater effluent. At the same time, she said, counsel could advise the state of the town’s position, which is that the levels permitted by the town’s operating permit are too low.

“Why aren’t we making the numbers?” asked Select Board member Doug Reardon. “Is it just an antiquated system?”

“Yes,” answered Mary, who is a former water and sewer operations manager.

The wastewater treatment plant is in need of a facility overhaul, which could cost the town millions of dollars, said Collins. The town has been attempting to avoid that expense, first by approving $35,000 in March of 2013 to continue chemically treating the effluent in order to bring it into compliance with the operating permit, and then in March, approving a further $174,500 to continue the planning, studying, design, operation and facility upgrades necessary to bring the facility into compliance. Of that, $100,351 will come from the 2013 general fund balance, and $74,149 will come from taxation.

The current plan for the funds approved this year is to install a control system that will help regulate chemical levels. But even with the new system, the plant is unlikely to be able to reach the level of chemicals required by the plant’s operating permit, said Mary.

The board discussed whether the new proposed system is the best use of the funds approved at Town Meeting, or whether there may be other steps the town can take to bring the plant into compliance. Collins suggested that a study of the Souhegan River might reveal data that would allow the town to adjust its permitted levels, with the hope that the requirements would become less stringent. It would be a risk with no guaranteed outcome, though, she added. “If it’s $30,000 to $50,000 to save $2.5 million [in facility upgrades], that’s not that much. But it might be $50,000 to have no result,” she said.

The board agreed to meet with the wastewater management to discuss the options for the town moving forward.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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