Archaeological Survey To Precede Waitsfield Wastewater Work
Waitsfield has a plan to address issues with failing septic systems in town, but first it needs to dabble in a little archaeology. The first phase of the town’s “decentralized wastewater project” calls for a 1,500-gallons-per-day dispersal field in a lot next to the Waitsfield United Church of Christ, and about 60 meters off the banks of the Mad River. However, authorities have determined that there’s a good chance that a field near the river could have some important archaeological artifacts. So this spring a team from the University of Vermont will be studying the field and digging some test sites to see what they can find.
The University of Vermont Consulting Archaeology Program (UVM CAP) conducted a desk review of the proposed project area and determined that the area is likely archaeologically sensitive. This review, combined with previous visits to Waitsfield and Irasville for other aspects of the septic line, as well as the Waitsfield drinking water project, lead to the recommendation of a Phase I site identification survey as part of the Section 106 permitting process.
The project will be paid for using a new Community Wastewater Loan Fund. The fund was created in 2012, four years after the town voted down building a “Big Pipe” municipal sewer system. The loan fund is intended to address failing septic systems in town by providing “funding, design and permitting assistance to property owners or associations in the town’s water service area who need to upgrade, repair, replace or expand their on-site wastewater treatment (septic) systems.” The fund will also generate interest to pay back $547,263 in debt that the town incurred while planning municipal sewer system.
The program responds to three actualities facing the town: (1) There are documented and worsening problems with failing or poorly-performing on-site wastewater treatment systems within the water service area, including the septic system for the Town Office/Library building at 9 Bridge Street. Failing systems may become subject to enforcement orders from the state. (2) The town has a legal obligation to repay $547,263 in debt incurred for planning of the previous sewer system (or “Big Pipe”) proposal, or $36,484 annually. The first payment was made March 1, 2013, and 19 more annual payments will be due. (3) A $906,100 EPA matching grant is available for wastewater management. These funds can substantially offset the “Big Pipe” debt, but can be accessed only if and when the town sponsors private wastewater treatment projects and/or completes systems serving public buildings. The funds are only available through December 2015 (32 months away).
The next wastewater project Waitsfield is looking to tackle is a failed septic system at the library and town office building. In a recent report, Town Administrator Valerie Capels recommended adding that site to the pending archaeological investigation.
Over the spring and summer the town will be receiving federal environmental clearances for use of the STAG funds, and will continue working with property owners to construct the first phase system in Irasville. The town also has the option to use this program to explore and construct a solution for the Town Office/Library building and other sites within Waitsfield Village. The Wastewater Committee will continue working with the Select Board, property owners, Vermont ANR and the consultant team to help advance this program.
The Waitsfield Select Board is looking at these issues this week. If approved, the archaeological study will take place later this spring.