Design Phase Begins For 47-Year-Old Haverhill Waste Treatment Plant Revamp

Public Works Director Robert E. Ward during an earlier appearance before the Haverhill City Council. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill will soon begin designing renovations for its 47-year-old wastewater treatment plant.

A $1.5 million loan, which city councilors authorized Tuesday night, goes toward creating the schematics contractors will follow, the first step in a years-long overhaul. Public Works Director Robert E. Ward said the loan makes up the difference left from $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act money used for the project.

“It’s a lot of money, and nobody likes that, but I think we’ve been fairly fortunate that this is the first real big upgrade we’ve had to do to this plant. Ultimately, it’s going to be a big price tag, but that shouldn’t happen for a couple years,” he said.

The revamp runs parallel to Public Works removing the city’s remaining combined sewer and stormwater pipes, which they started doing in 2022. If overwhelmed, these systems allow the contaminated mixture into the Merrimack River. According to the city’s website, only 3-5% of overflow is made up of raw sewage.

Responding to a question from Councilor Melissa J. Lewandowski, Ward said upgrades will help reduce pollution. “The plant has a certain maximum capacity when it rains. If you have unreliable equipment, it’s going dip. It’s going to bring in less flow, and you’ll get a little bit of this. With new equipment, that will be more reliable, as far as bringing it in.”

For example, due to new design guidelines, Ward explained the Return Activated Sludge Pumps must be able to handle 18 million gallons per day, from three million back in 1977. The update to the plant, which includes significant work on the main pump station located on South Mill Street, is required by state and federal agencies.

Councilor Katrina Hobbs-Everett asked whether the alert system might improve. Ward responded, “All that computer software and equipment that controls the plant will be upgraded, so we can certainly make sure we look at that.”

The next step is to find contractors, after which Ward will return to the council to request another loan. Construction will begin in 2026 at the earliest.

In related news, councilors authorized a $2.7 million loan Ward requested for improvements to four sewer pump stations around the city. Originally $2.1 million, he said both the scope of the project and construction costs had gone up since the loan was first proposed last year.

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