BROCKTON – Brockton refused a $ 34.8M plan turn sewage sludge into “biochar” it could sell for $ 300 a tonne.
Mayor Robert Sullivan said on Friday that he had put the proposal on hold after a repulsion by other elected officials.
“We need to look at the legal and financial implications,” Sullivan said. “My number one role as mayor is as a duty of trust to the people who appoint me.”
Ahead of Friday’s shocking upheaval, city councilors signaled openness to the move and blamed the administration for giving them so little time to consider such a large and complex proposal. The city was under gunfire to seek change-or-break state funding for the project by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
At issue was a proposal to upgrade the water purification of the city plant on Oak Hill Way. The city had scrapped the existing incinerator and installed two dryers and two “pyrolysis” units. Farmers buy the resulting product, biofuel, as a fertilizer or soil conditioner.
The idea sounds counterintuitive, but the numbers add up in favor of taxpayers, said Troy Clarkson, the city’s chief financial officer. He explained at a recent Finance Committee meeting that it costs Brockton $ 2.5M a year to transport sludge to Naugatuck, Connecticut for processing. Not only would that cost go away, but Brockton-made biochar would conservatively bring in $ 300 a tonne, he said.
“We believe that over the life of this loan we could save more than $ 60 million,” Clarkson said.
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Whatever the financial appeal, several city councilors said environmental issues need urgent answers first.
“I care about the smell and the impact on residents,” said councilor Susan Nicastro, who represents Ward 4, home of the sewage plant.
Those questions must have been answered Wednesday at a Ward 4 public meeting. Pat Hill, commissioner of the Department of Public Construction and the city’s chief of the project, invited environmental experts to explain the project.
Nicastro, reached on Friday, said environmental experts will still be coming to the section meeting as the underlying issues will not go away just because the current proposal has been filed.
“This is an opportunity to influence what happens as we upgrade that plant, and I won’t stop,” she said Friday.
At-Large Councilor Win Farwell was among those who said the administration should have published more information earlier.
“On this particular issue, we deserve more information than we have received,” Farwell said.
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No one would blame Ward 4 residents for feeling like the proposal was the latest example of the south side getting the shaft.
District 4 is home to the a landfill once known as Mount Trashmore due to its infamous stench and the water treatment plant and was looked after for a 350-megawatt, gas-fired power plant that never came true.
The threatening deadline that spurred the rush came from the State Dewing Fund. The fund aims to kick-start infrastructure projects by forgiving significant portions of loans that Brockton could take out. The fund could forgive at least 9.9% of the loan, or as much as 49%.
Sullivan said he decided to postpone the slime biocharging project after a crackdown on Friday with elected officials and top city brass, including Nicastro, Ward 6 City Councilor Jack Lally, State Rep. Michelle Dubois, D-Brockton and Clarkson.
The city is moving forward with a separate $ 16M loan, also using the State Dewing Fund, to renovate the city’s sewer system.
District 4 Public Meeting
City Councilor Susan Nicastro will host a public meeting for Ward 4 residents at 7 p.m., June 1 at Davis School, 380 Plain St.
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