Sewage treatment to receive bulk of ARPA funding

Jul 31, 2023

The 2024 American Rescue Plan Act funds for Dartmouth will largely go towards sewage treatment plant upgrades, as presented at the July 31 Select Board meeting.

The proposal still needs to be presented to the finance committee for their feedback.

The town received an estimated $9,341,589 in ARPA funding directly from the federal government. Last year, the town allocated $4,163,886 of the funding, largely towards parks and recreation projects, leaving $5,177,703 for fiscal year 2024.

The money can only be spent on four main goals: replacing public sector revenue loss; supporting public health responses; mitigating negative economic impacts of the pandemic; and making investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Last year, the DPW water and sewer enterprise received $1,047,500, eleven percent of the total funding. This year, the town is looking to allocate ninety-three percent of the remaining funding to water and sewer infrastructure improvements. The other seven percent would go towards town government projects.

Town officials see the investment into water and sewer infrastructure as a way to directly support residents.

“Generally, any capital improvements they have, have to [increase] the water rates, but by using the ARPA funds this does not [increase] the water and sewer rates,” said Shawn MacInnes, Town Manager. “Which is some benefit to residents.”

The plant can handle four million gallons of wastewater per day according to the Department of Public Works, who are responsible for the sewage treatment.

“We are now having problems with the plant,” said Robert Almy, Chair of the Board of Public Works. “The problems are not serious enough to draw the attention of regulators, but we are exceeding daily inflow on a regular enough basis.”

With multiple proposals for high density housing developments, the strain on the plant will become too much, causing larger issues. Almy alluded to the fact that if the sewer treatment plant is not fixed soon, they will need implement the “m-word.” This refers to a moratorium, which would stop new homes and developments from connecting to the sewer system. 

“In summary we have an old plant with old equipment, and … we are at capacity,” Almy said.

Within the ARPA funds budget, $3.5 million is allocated for treatment plant and system upgrades for disinfection of by-products; $582,912 for UV bulbs and starter; $300,000 for emergency generators at four stations; $175,000 is for comprehensive sludge handling and composting evaluation; $250,000 for infiltration remediation; and $369,791 for capital project overages contingencies.

“If it is worth doing, take your time and do it right,” Almy said about improving the sewage treatment plant.