Berlin To Avoid Expansion By Adding Wastewater Plant

BERLIN – Berlin’s elected officials have formally asked Worcester County to add two wastewater plant systems to the books.

Discussions between Troy Purnell’s Berlin Properties North, which owns the Tyson chicken plant site, and the town of Berlin have resulted in an unusual public-private partnership that will forestall expansion of the municipal wastewater plant.

The new plan is a significant departure from the original proposal put forth by Purnell this spring that called for the Berlin municipal wastewater plant to be expanded, but to a lesser extent, while the Crossroads plant would handle 125,000 gallons per day (gpd) in flows from the development.

Now the municipal plant will actually be de-rated to 400,000 gpd to handle only what can be applied to the town’s spray fields. The Tyson site wastewater plant will handle the rest.

“This is a revision. It’s no longer increasing our plant. It’s de-rating our plant and redirecting flows to the Tyson facility,” said Linda Bambary, Berlin’s administrative director.

“That’s probably the most cost effective and the easiest to get done,” Purnell said.

Ironically, the current concept is “almost exactly where we started three years ago,” Purnell said.

The new plant will treat effluent to the highest standard, enhanced nutrient removal, before discharging the treated wastewater to the stream. The municipal plant will stop using stream discharge entirely, at least until phase three rolls around in 15 to 20 years, when more capacity will be needed.

The new system would be constructed in phases, with the first phase built to handle a total of 1 mgd of effluent, with .6 mgd handled by the Tyson site plant.

The capacity should be sufficient to handle regional needs for 20 years, according to a letter sent to the county this month.

The letter requests that the previously submitted water and sewer plan amendment application be revised to reflect the two plant plan.

By state law, the town must expand its existing wastewater facilities, which have reached 80 percent capacity. Expansion or new construction must begin when the plant reaches 90 percent capacity.

The two plants between them would eventually offer 1.4 million gallons per day (mgd) sewage treatment capacity, which matches the capacity to be created under the original plan for the expansion of the existing plant.

Purnell said he would take care of building the 125,000 gpd worth of wastewater treatment his project needs, and the rest would be up to the town.

The Berlin Town Council approved the two-plant concept this spring. Unusually, the vote was not unanimous, with Council member Ellen Lang voting against the idea.

When the subject was first proposed in late winter, Council Vice President Gee Williams said, “Over our dead bodies.”

When the letter was read out at this week’s Berlin Town Council meeting, none of the council members had any comment to make.

While the deal looks like it will only benefit the town, the reality is not so simple. The Tyson property is not in Berlin, being just over the line, and will need to be annexed into town limits.

Agreeing to the second plant was tantamount to agreeing to an annexation, despite having no annexation agreement in hand, said Lang this spring.

“They have to happen together,” said Bambary. “One’s conditioned on the other.”

Purnell hopes to bring an annexation agreement to the town within the next couple months.

“We’re working on it right now on our end,” Purnell said.  

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