West Acton Sewer Information

Project Update (December 9, 2019)

At a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen December 6th, the Board voted to modify the scope of the West Acton Sewer Project being proposed in Article 3 for Tuesday’s Special Town Meeting.  The Article was initially for a $15.2M project that was to be constructed in 2 phases to sewer a large portion of West Acton.

 The current proposal that will be presented through a motion on Tuesday includes Phase 1 (only), which is a $1.9M project to install a force main alone on Mass Ave and Spruce as shown:

2019.12.06 Phase 1 Force Main Project

This action follows a vote of the Sewer Committee (WASAAC) December 5th to proceed with Phase 1only.  Over the last few months the Board of Selectmen have received feedback regarding the cost of the proposed betterment which was estimated between $35,000 to $39,000 for a single family household.  Given the feedback from the community about cost, a Phase 1 project along would result in a minimal sewer area and approximate $22,000 per single-family equivalent. Delaying the request for approval of  Phase 2 provides additional time to review costs for an expanded project. 

The purpose of proceeding with Phase 1 at this time is to keep the project moving forward and to provide the option for the new twin-school to connect if the ABRSD decides to do so.  If Phase 1 is approved on Tuesday December 10th, and ABRSD (following approval at STM and ballot) chooses sewer, the force main construction will begin in time to be connected next summer.  

WASAAC and perhaps others will then start the process of reviewing the current plans for phase 2 to see what revisions would make the project economics work better.  This may involve recommending changes to the project scope and/or changes to the sewer bylaw at a future Town Meeting.  Phase 2 of the project will be brought forward after further consideration of the above.

West Acton Sewer Project (webpage)

Project Overview

The West Acton Sewer Continuation Project is a continuation of the sewer program started in 1945. Since 2002, the Town has owned and operated a public sewer system which currently serves South Acton, Kelley's Corner and the AB High School Campus. As part of the approval from the state to build the system, the Town was required to plan for future areas to continue the sewer project. West Acton was identified as a high-priority, future area to connect to the existing sewer system.

An investment was made in 2002 to not only provide sewer to the existing sewer area, but to provide additional capacity at the existing treatment plant for these future areas. Future areas to connect were identified in a Comprehensive Water Resource Management Plan (CWRMP) which identified areas town-wide where septic systems were potentially either environmentally or economically not viable. The report was required and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in 2006. The Town has been making progress on meeting the goals of the CWRMP since.

West Acton Sewers has been a goal of the Board of Selectmen (2014-16), a goal of the Acton 2020 Master Plan and a priority of the CWRMP. In 2017 the Board of Selectmen formed the West Acton Sewer Action Advisory Committee (WASAAC) to study feasibility of sewering West Acton. Evaluating sewer feasibility and determining the next steps is a short-term goal of the Board of Selectmen in 2019. The sewer project warrant article at the December 10th Town Meeting has been recommended by the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee. The sewer project has also been supported by the Acton Board of Health, the Economic Development Committee and WASAAC.

If Phase 1 is approved at Town Meeting December 10th, the West Acton sewer project will provide a sewer option for the Douglas/Gates School project and make $1.34 million in state funding available for meeting the school's wastewater need by Summer 2020.

In general, sewer is critical infrastructure to a key economic center of Town. The total project cost is estimated at $15,200,000 and comprised of approximately:

  • $13,200,000 for total construction costs, which includes a 10% contingency and a conservative estimate of costs anticipated in 2020/2021,
  • $1,000,000 for all design costs, a portion of which includes the full repayment of funds authorized by Town Meeting in April 2019 for a preliminary sewer design,
  • $1,000,000 of project costs paid by West Acton sewers for the existing sewer system to be used for maintenance and upgrades of the existing sewer treatment plant.

If approved at Town Meeting December 10th, the Town will finance this cost through low-interest borrowing from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust over a term of 30-years. 

Please review the frequently asked questions about the project here.

Why Should The Project Happen Now?

  1. Phase 1 of the project would support the twin-school project and allow time to revaluate costs for Phase 2.
  2. Leverage state funding. $13 million in low interest loans are available from the state's Clean Water Trust. The sewer project is a priority project for the Trust's State Revolving Fund and $1.34 million is immediately available to the Town to use for Phase 1 of the sewer project (a sewer connection for the Gates/Douglas school project) if approved by Town Meeting.
  3. The projects supports, and is supported by, the West Acton business community. The commercial area of West Acton would pay for nearly a third of the project's costs. Sewers are a critical need for a key economic center of Acton:
    • "..sewer is exactly the critical piece of infrastructure West Acton needs to sustain the expanding village economy. It will support the walkable and lively town center that the residents of our community say they want" - Mathias Rosenfeld, West Acton Villageworks Owner
    • "Town sewer in West Acton would give us an opportunity to grow our business in new ways" – Chris Powell, Orange Door Kitchen 
    • "There is a lot of momentum and excitement in West Acton, but in order for it to reach its potential as a vibrant, walkable commercial district, and attract more high quality businesses, we need sewer services." – Lucy Goldstein, Wellness at Villageworks 
  4. Sewers helps support a walkable, village neighborhood. Septic systems are challenging to replace in a dense neighborhood like West Acton which has smaller properties due to being it being a village community.
  5. The sewer warrant article at the December 10th Town Meeting is recommended by:
    • The Acton Board of Selectmen
    • The Acton Finance Committee
  6. The project is also supported by:
    • The Acton Board of Health
    • The Acton Economic Development Committee
    • The West Acton Sewer Action Advisory Committee

More emails from West Acton business owners can be read here and video of a public forum for business owners can be watched on YouTube here.

Next Steps & Timeline

Phase 1 of the sewer project is scheduled to be voted on at the December 10th Town Meeting and has been recommended by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee.

Timeline & Events:

  • Tuesdays (8:00AM to 7:30 PM). Please visit the Engineering Department during the new Town Hall hours to ask questions and learn about the project.
  • September 12th - WASAAC Committee Meeting & Public Forum at Town Hall to finalize project limits
  • September22nd - WASAAC Information at the Acton Boxborough Farmers Market: https://abfarmersmarket.org/
  • September 26th - Senior Center/Human Services Open House (30 Sudbury Road)
  • September 29th - West Acton Oktoberfest: http://www.westactonvillageworks.com/events/2018/8/31/west-acton-village-oktoberfest
  • October 10th - WASAAC Committee Meeting & Public Forum at Villageworks, 525 Mass Ave West Acton
  • October 23rd - Preliminary sewer betterments mailed to property owners in project area
  • November 14th - WASAAC Committee Meeting & Public Forum. 
  • November 18th - Board of Selectmen Meeting. Recommendation to Town Meeting.
  • December 10th Special Town Meeting - Phase 1 Authorization
    • Phase 1 Construction (June 2020 - August 2020) - Gates/Douglas sewer connection (Spruce Street and Mass Ave)
  • Future Town Meeting - Phase 2 Authorization 
    • Phase 2 Construction - Remainder of construction in West Acton sewer area
  • After Construction Ends - Start of sewer betterment payments

Why West Acton?

  1. Third highest ranked priority area identified by CWRMP. Septic replacements may be challenging to meet current standards:
    • "The majority of lots...due to the proximity of Middle Fort Pond Brook [are limited for] onsite wastewater systems due to wetlands and high groundwater" 
    • "..over 50% of the developed parcels [in West Acton] are classified as [limited septic] parcels. This is the second greatest percentage in the identified Needs Areas"
  2.  The project can provide a sewer connection for the new Gates/Douglas school building by summer 2020
  3. Sewers support local businesses and are vital for Economic Sustainability:
    • CWRMP: "[West Acton] is targeted for economic growth"
    • Acton 2020 Goals: "Consider extension of sewer in West Acton to serve [the] commercial area and high priority neighborhood identified in the [CWRMP]"
    • "There is a lot of momentum and excitement in West Acton, but in order for it to reach its potential as a vibrant, walkable commercial district, and attract more high quality businesses, we need sewer services." – Lucy Goldstein, Wellness at Villageworks
  4. The sewer warrant article at the December 10th Town Meeting is recommended by:
    • The Acton Board of Selectmen
    • The Acton Finance Committee
  5. The project is also supported by:
    • The Acton Board of Health
    • The Acton Economic Development Committee
    • The West Acton Sewer Action Advisory Committee


West Acton Public Outreach