Hopkinton-Webster transfer station agreement remains the same

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 09-13-2023 5:25 PM

The cost of cleaning up the PFAS-contaminated sludge at the Hopkinton-Webster transfer station and potentially relocating it off-site could cost the towns $13.8 million. 

The 52,000 tons of sludge containing “forever” chemicals at the transfer station lagoons are the result of years of accumulation from residential and commercial waste pumped from septic tanks.

During a select board meeting on Monday, Neal Cass, the Hopkinton town administrator, pointed out that the sludge could have had beneficial applications if it didn’t contain PFAS.

Another option under consideration is capping and containing the PFAS-contaminated sludge, which is projected to cost $3.8 million. To alleviate the financial burden, engineers are actively pursuing grants to assist with the cleanup expenses, said Cass.

The contamination issue first emerged in 2021 when the Hazardous Waste Management Bureau detected elevated levels of PFAS in groundwater monitoring wells surrounding the transfer station, where the septic lagoons are situated. Since then, the town has been collaborating with the Department of Environmental Services to address this situation.

The overall agreement that clarifies the responsibilities between the two towns also remains an issue.

Hopkinton resident Meredith Hartfield asked for a collaborative approach between the two towns as they move forward with the longstanding transfer station agreement.

“I would love to have the town of Webster also create a waste reduction committee that could work jointly with the folks in Hopkinton who are working on the issue,” Hartfield said at Monday’s meeting between the select boards of both towns to discuss the draft of the new agreement.

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Other residents agreed.

The revised draft of the agreement, which permits Webster and Hopkinton to jointly operate the transfer station on 491 Eeast Penacook Road, maintains most of the original terms from 1975, except for the removal of the refuse disposal committee.

In the new agreement, the select boards will be the policymakers, while the day-to-day operations will be carried out by Hopkinton.

“The refuse disposal committee has not really been functioning for a number of years and the management of the operations has been done by Hopkinton for a number of years,” said Cass.

Aside from changes to the language, the revised draft emphasizes flexibility for both towns. It includes provisions for towns to withdraw or opt into new programs independently, without being  compelled to implement decisions made by one town alone.

“I like the overall structure of it and the concept,” said Webster select board chair David Hemenway.

In terms of financial responsibility, the revenue and costs of the transfer station’s operations will be divided between the two towns, with Hopkinton shouldering 75% and Webster 25%. This share remains the same as the original agreement.

“Webster and Hopkinton have such an interesting and unique partnership, which is joint transportation but we encourage both boards to really try their best to work together when  talking about implementing plans,” said Andrea Folsom, Hopkinton resident.

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