Montague’s Clean Water Facility poised to take in sludge from neighboring towns


Staff Writer

Published: 02-17-2023 4:42 PM

MONTAGUE — With the acquisition of a new 21,000-gallon storage tank, Montague’s Clean Water Facility is now positioned to be the area’s hub for sludge processing.

Installation of the new “frac tank,” which was announced by Wastewater Superintendent Chelsey Little during this week’s Selectboard meeting, provides the wastewater treatment plant with the capacity to be of regional service as it had been more than half a decade ago, Little explained.

In recent years, she added, the solid waste would need to be hauled to distant facilities for pressing, such as one in Lowell. With a total storage capacity of around 50,000 gallons, the Clean Water Facility now aims to take in three 9,000-gallon loads of sludge from surrounding communities, providing Montague with a revenue boost and the town’s neighbors with a more local hauling option.

Sludge is “solid material that cannot be broken down any further in the wastewater process,” Little described previously. Montague’s Clean Water Facility is the only plant within the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District that presses sludge into “cakes,” or dewatered solids that can be transferred to another facility and incinerated. Currently, Montague contracts with Synagro Northeast LLC to haul the cakes to an incinerator in Connecticut.

Before acquiring the additional frac tank, the Clean Water Facility could hold 30,000 gallons of sludge and septage between three 10,000-gallon tanks. This was only enough storage to handle Montague’s own sludge. Increasing this capacity by around 70% allows Montague to become “another option for local facilities to dispose of their solids at a cheaper rate, and with a lower carbon footprint,” Little said.

Montague accepted sludge from outside municipalities for the first time in more than five years last week, according to Little. She explained to the Selectboard that Montague pressed sludge from Sunderland and Hatfield after pipes burst at their usual treatment plant in Lowell. Going forward, Montague will accept sludge from any of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District’s 21 member towns. The district includes Bernardston, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Conway, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Hawley, Heath, Leverett, Montague, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Rowe, Shelburne, Sunderland, Warwick, Wendell and Whately.

For at least the next six months, Little doesn’t “want to go crazy” and plans to “see how it goes,” accepting sludge at a modest rate of three 9,000-gallon loads per week.

“That’s not a lot in the grand scheme of our system,” she told the Selectboard.

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Little said she expects Montague will earn between $700 and $825 in revenue per 9,000-gallon load. This would amount to around $109,000 per year, she projected.

“The communities pay for disposal and hauling their liquid sludge to us, just like they would for any facility their sludge is disposed of at,” she wrote in an email. “Like most business models, we do account for our own cost of ultimate disposal for the material and anticipate making additional revenue as well.”

Calculating Montague’s net profit, she said, “is a little bit intricate just because solid percents can vary so much.”

“It’s kind of hard to get a good sense of it, but it looks like it should be around 50% profit,” she continued, estimating Montague’s related expenses to be around $54,000.

“I think that’s good if we can get some income and it’s within the plant’s limits,” Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz said relative to the prospect of Montague helping surrounding towns.