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Soil testing for possible sewer district leech field to commence shortly

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HARVARD — Discussions about a sewer district in the town center may have subsided somewhat since March’s town meeting, but footwork on the idea is expected to continue.

Though an article seeking $400,000 to acquire a leech field for the district fell short at town meeting, $17,500 for soil testing on that site was appropriated. The topic is scheduled for discussion by the Board of Selectmen on May 16.

Town Center Planning Committee Chairman Timothy Clark, who has spearheaded efforts to move the project forward, said the group plans to continue its work with soil testing.

”We’re moving forward. This is just the next step,” he said.

Testing would be conducted on a parcel of land owned by the Harvard Conservation Trust between Slough and Woodchuck Hill roads. That parcel of land and its soil could be an important component if the town opts to establish an at-large district in the town center.

An overall goal of the Town Center Planning Committee’s study has been to identify ways the town can “unlock” the reuse potential of the town center. One of those challenges in the densely-settled area is meeting modern sanitary codes, which can require unsightly mounds or limit the potential usage.

Central to the planning committee’s solution is the expandable package treatment plant at the schools, which the town will have access to once final audits are complete on The Bromfield School’s expansion project.

The plant is projected to have a significant excess capacity, which could be used for either a municipal sewer district or an at-large one that would include residences in the town center village.

However, the plant and leech field have an insufficient capacity for the latter option and would need to be expanded. Having evaluated options in the area, the planning committee was seeking funds so the town could acquire a parcel from the Conservation Trust to ensure that the leech field was available if it was needed.

While that did not come together at the town meeting, Clark said the task at hand is to evaluate the site in several steps and have a discussion with the Department of Environmental Protection if prospects look good.

One element of that discussion will be what the department will allow in terms of usage for the existing plant, he said.

The plant has a capacity for 23,000 gallons per day of wastewater, approximately 5,000 of which would be utilized by the schools. Adding the municipal buildings in the center has been estimated as adding another 2,000 gallons per day. Adding the residential homes in an area roughly corresponding with the water district was between 19,000 and 20,000.

Clark said it’s been surmised the department could require some additional leeway past the actual usage figures, but said that wouldn’t be known until those discussions took place.

The expanded system was estimated as costing $3.3 million prior to town meeting, but Clark said that figure could change as details come to light.

”We believe the district as proposed could still be modified in a number of ways,” he said. “We want to get a handle on the testing first to see what that yields.”