The focus of the Hull Sewer Department is “reliability, redundancy, and resiliency,” Director of Wastewater Operations John Struzziery told the Select Board during a recent presentation about the department’s role.
Struzziery, who has been working at the wastewater treatment facility for about 30 years, explained that those terms refer to “ensuring that backup systems are in place when needed and that the plant has functioning equipment as well as planning for future resiliency.”
Along those lines, the department’s mission is to serve the residents of Hull with professional and efficient service, cost-effective wastewater collection and treatment, “and to preserve the environment and water quality of our coastline and beaches,” he said.
The wastewater treatment plant is located at 1111 Nantasket Ave., and about 99% of Hull homes and businesses are connected to the town’s sanitary sewer system. The permanent sewer commission oversees policy and major sewer upgrade projects, along with other matters.
Town Manager Philip Lemnios reported that the town has engaged in conversations with Scituate and Cohasset officials regarding a potential regional approach utilizing some of the extra capacity in the Hull system, which would bring in more revenue “to help defray [sewer system-associated] costs to Hull residents,” he said.
“We have funds in place from all three communities to do a study,” but nothing has been decided at this time, he said. Lemnios declined to comment further because he did not want to speak on behalf of officials from other towns.
Struzziery provided an overview of the system, which currently has an average daily flow of 1.5 million gallons. There are 42 miles of sewer line, seven pumping stations, and one stormwater pumping station. Some of the sewers date back to 1860, most of them to the 1970s and 1980s, and the treatment plant to 1978 [when it was damaged in the blizzard and repaired in 1980]. The system operates 24/7, 365 days of the year.
Struzziery explained that condition assessments have been done on the sewer system and that a five-year capital plan has been developed, along with a financial plan that includes a new billing structure and rate. To help defray the cost of millions of dollars in projects, grants and low-interest loans have been obtained.
Challenges facing the system include aging infrastructure and workforce, greater needs than funds available, sea-level rise/climate change vulnerability – which Struzziery said is very real – keeping up with preventive maintenance and changing regulations, reducing infiltration/inflow, pandemic-related costs and delays, user rates, and getting all the work done, Struzziery explained.
“It’s difficult to get the technicians that are necessary to operate the plant,” he said. “That’s the nature of the business right now.”
To help ease that situation, a number of Massachusetts Maritime interns have worked there, and a few have stayed on.
Struzziery added that the system has already been impacted by sea-level rise and climate change. “We need to address these aspects,” he said.
Lemnios expressed appreciation for Struzziery’s efforts over the years, noting that “people don’t tend to think about the plant, which has operated for many years without a hiccup.”
That said, the facility is full of mechanical equipment that is in constant operation and needs to be repaired from time to time, including underground pipes.
“New regulations are in place to make these plants more environmentally-friendly. [Struzziery and his staff] are constantly chasing the next standard that they have to meet in order to avoid significant financial consequences that would ultimately show up in customers’ bills,” Lemnios said.
The town manager noted that the current environment is “unpredictable, with supply chains and the labor market strained and costs escalating beyond the normal inflation rate,” but the work needed on the plant can’t wait.
“John and his staff have done a great job making sure that the recovery [from severe damage that occurred in 2013] is sufficient to keep everything working and to avoid sewer backups into homes, but there are still some precarious situations in the system that we are monitoring and will address,” Lemnios said.
Select Board member John Reilly noted that millions of dollars have been approved at town meetings in the past toward the sewer system and treatment facility “with very little discussion, because the work needs to be done.”
Select Board Chair Jennifer Constable echoed his comment about how residents view the plant. “The infrastructure isn’t something people think about on a regular basis until there is an issue. You do an excellent job communicating with the community,” she told Struzziery.
Residents with questions, concerns, or issues in their neighborhoods may call (781) 925-1207 during regular business hours or (781) 925-0906 after hours (follow the prompts).
The Select Board has been hearing presentations on the operations of various town departments during the past few weeks. Department heads describe their day- to- day activities and preview the upcoming year. View this and other presentations on the town’s website at https://www.town.hull.ma.us/home/pages/department-presentations-board-selectmen