FRCOG launching six-month county public water and wastewater system study

  • The Greenfield Water Pollution Control Plant off Deerfield Street in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Montague Water Pollution Control Facility at 34 Greenfield Road in Montague. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Montague Water Pollution Control Facility at 34 Greenfield Road in Montague. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Greenfield Water Pollution Control Plant off Deerfield Street in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/12/2021 2:06:17 PM
Modified: 8/12/2021 2:06:25 PM

GREENFIELD — A six-month study of the county’s public water and wastewater systems being conducted by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) will assess the systems’ resistance to climate change impacts, make recommendations to improve operations and prioritize investments.

With funding from a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant, FRCOG will conduct its study of existing water and wastewater systems in the county and of select areas identified as being in need of these systems. Over the next several months, consultants from the contracted firm of Tighe & Bond will reach out to system operators and municipal officials to gather information.

Jessica Atwood, economic development program manager with FRCOG, said consultants will evaluate system needs and challenges. Because FRCOG is a federally designated U.S. economic district, Atwood said the regional organization has access to supplemental planning funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“One of the things we are doing with that money is this study,” Atwood said. “The idea behind this is that each district or municipality has a system, and it would be helpful for us to understand where they’re each at, and if they have priority project needs.”

The study will assess the various projects needed across the county, and their urgency, so officials will be able to direct funding where it’s most needed as it becomes available. In addition, the study will include a “comprehensive mapping element” that will look to fill gaps in maps of water and wastewater systems that can be shared with all municipalities. There is no expectation that residential water or wastewater systems will be affected during the study.

“The consultants will create a profile of each district and give an evaluation and assessment of each district in terms of climate resiliency, anticipated investments that are needed, and ask them if there are any particular issues they’re dealing with,” Atwood explained. “If they find the same issues come up with multiple districts, we may see if there are ways to find collaborative solutions.”

Tighe & Bond will create or update geographic information system (GIS) mapping and a digital asset database for each system, Atwood wrote in a letter to town system operators. These will be available to towns, districts and FRCOG at the completion of the study.

Atwood said the final study will also include a summary of common issues and challenges with recommendations of how to address them, including potential options for regional solutions. A presentation of the draft study will be held at a winter 2022 meeting of the Franklin County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Committee, with the final report being completed by spring 2022.

Related to this effort and being expedited to take advantage of $400 million in state American Rescue Plan Act funding dedicated to water and sewer infrastructure, FRCOG staff members are working with the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, and the municipalities of Montague and Greenfield to assess the best regional solution for sludge, according to FRCOG’s summer newsletter.

Solutions may include use of a regional anaerobic digester, a sludge dewatering press and composting facility, or a combination of the two. Currently, the newsletter states, sludge is transported to Lowell or farther and is an increasing municipal expense.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-930-4579.

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