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The Commons
Town and Village

Town's sewer system gets a good grade

Originally published in The Commons issue #404 (Wednesday, April 19, 2017).



PUTNEY—The town’s sewer system is in good shape, said Naomi Johnson, project engineer and senior vice president of the Dufresne Group.

The town hired Dufresne, the Springfield, Vt.-based firm that specializes in municipal water and wastewater systems, to take an inventory of its system to help complete the sewer asset management project.

At the March 29 regular Selectboard meeting, Johnson presented the Board with her draft report of Putney’s wastewater system.

Board Clerk Josh Laughlin asked Johnson if there were “any big surprises” in her analysis.

“Not really,” Johnson said. “The collection system is in pretty good shape ... and there are no big issues with [it] or the pump stations,” she added. But, some of the slopes of the sewer system’s pipes are at a lower angle than is currently accepted, Johnson said.

The priority, she said, is to do some energy-efficiency work on the windows and doors in the control building at the treatment plant.

Johnson told Board members she and her survey crew took a complete inventory of all equipment at the wastewater treatment plant, checked the slopes of the lines, examined pipes running through the town’s two bridge crossings, and surveyed the utility covers and what’s beneath them. They also inspected the treatment plant, the collection system, and the pump stations.

There are “many, many miles” of piping, Johnson said, and most of it dates from the 1970s, with “a little bit [from] the 1980s and 1990s.”

All of this information now lives in a database that town staff can access, and Johnson brought a printed schematic for Board members and Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard to review at the March 29 meeting.

From there, the town can use the report to chart the maintenance of the wastewater system and plan for its future.

“We can keep track of the dollar amount for the entire system. What we do with the asset inventory is for each item; we go in and we assign the original age, we look at the useful life, then we’ll calculate what the remaining life is,” Johnson said.

The report also includes schedules for replacement, the cost estimates for replacing each component, and funding sources, such as state revolving loans and rural development grants.

Each component is rated by its “consequences of failure” — either low, medium, or high — Johnson said. To come up with the rating, she analyzed the piece’s life-cycle and reliability. “That helps prioritize when you should be looking at replacement and how often you should be monitoring” the component, she said.

“The important thing to remember about asset inventory is, you really have to keep it up to date over time,” Johnson said.

She suggested tracking when maintenance occurred, as this may change the anticipated lifespan of the infrastructure.

Stoddard said it would be more efficient to have Simon Operations Services, the company that runs the treatment plant, manage the report, because they can note the repairs they make to the system.

Johnson noted her report is in draft form, and the next step is for town officials to review the report, make any changes, and submit those changes to her. Stoddard said she would bring the draft report to Chris Hayes, Simon’s water-sewer system operator, for his review.

Once Johnson gets the changes, she will adjust the report and send the town a final version electronically and on paper.

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