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Sewer fairness alliance of chelmsford info sheet

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  • 1. SEWER FAIRNESS ALLIANCE OFCHELMSFORDwww.sfa-chelsmford.orgTo our Town Representatives;We want to introduce you to the Sewer Fairness Alliance ofChelmsford, which was formed in November 2012 to seekequity for homeowners in Chelmsford who were compelledby the now defunct Sewer Commission to install grinderpumps and to maintain them, at their own expense. Atpresent, there are over 500 homes impacted. When formed,there were 23 homeowners in the Alliance, but now thatnumber is nearing 200 and growing. What the SFA-Chelmsford seeks from you is your support that the Town ofChelmsford treat all homeowners equally in the use of thenow-completed sewer system.The sewer system project was started in 1989, andhomeowners were required to pay a “betterment fee” ofapproximately $1300 for installing the sewer line under theirstreet. Their connection to the sewer was by gravity feed andthey had to pay for connecting the sewer line from theirhome to the sewer. That was their only cost. The sewer lineran to a pumping station and the cost of maintaining thepumping station was included in their semi-annual sewer bill.Throughout the project there were some homes that,because of geography, could not connect to the sewersystem by gravity feed and those homes required grinderpumps. However, toward the end of the project, the fundingwas low, and the cost to dig deep enough for the gravity feedpipe was more costly, as were the pumping stations thatwere placed at various points to move the gravity feedsystems. The Sewer Commission determined that it would
  • 2. be less expensive for the town to require homeowners toinstall grinder pumps, even when gravity feed was more thanplausible, without providing other options for connecting tothe sewer system. The pipe feed for a grinder pump wasless costly, did not need to be placed so deep in the ground,and the pump itself would be installed at the home. Toreduce the Town’s cost, the Sewer Commission passed onthe cost to individual home owners.Home owners required to install grinder pumps not only hadthe hook up to street as other gravity feed homes did, butalso had many additional costs. Electrical panels needed tobe installed in their home to handle the pump, there wereadditional costs for the install of the pump, and there areongoing electrical costs and all maintenance costs as well asreplacement costs. While promised by the SewerCommission that these pumps would last nearly 20 years,our experience is much different. The SFA-Chelmsford iscollecting data from homeowners that indicates parts wearout and break down frequently. There is only one companyauthorized to service and/or replace the E-One GrinderPumps that we were forced to have; F.W. Mahoney Co.,located in Rockland, Massachusetts. This company servicesfive out of the six New England states, which results insignificant delays in service during power outages orbreakdowns. The company charges a $150 travel fee just toinspect the problem, and charges additionally for labor, partsand/or replacement.Homeowners with grinder pumps bear additional cost andgreat inconvenience when there is a power outage (and theTown seems to experience power outages quite frequently).If the homeowner does not own a generator, or one withenough capacity to run the grinder pump, the use of water bythe homeowner (showers, toilet, dish and clothes washers)
  • 3. is impossible. The elderly and disabled are particularlyadversely affected if there is no alternative power during apower outage. Many of us had generators that providedsufficient power for refrigerators, lights, and othernecessities, but these generators do not supply sufficientpower for the grinder pump and we have to invest in yetanother generator to protect ourselves during the poweroutages, or we will suffer the consequences. The pumps donot have capacity, without power, to last more than 24 hours,with sewage spilling over into the yard, or worse backing upinto the basement of the home. Many home owners havehad to stay at hotels when the pumps have not beenworking, due to power outages or breakdown.These extra costs are substantial. We have startedsurveying homeowners with grinder pumps and many havereported repeated breakdowns and multiple replacements,all at their own cost. Those homeowners connected to thesewer system by gravity feed do not have or share theseextra costs. All taxpayers receive semi-annual sewer billsfrom the Sewer Department to maintain the gravity feedpumping stations, including the homeowners who havegrinder pumps. These semi-annual sewer bills are the onlyexpense homeowners with gravity feed receive, whilehomeowners with grinder pumps bear the additionalexpense of electricity, maintenance, repair and replacementof the pump in perpetuity.In addition, while the initial installation (“betterment fee”) wasabout $1300 at the beginning of the project, many werecharged over $4,000 at the end of the project. Even whenadjusting for inflation, those at the end of the project paidtwice as much as those who were charged the bettermentfee at the early stages of the project. There was nouniformity in this charge, some homeowners were given
  • 4. rebates of inconsistent amounts, and some were not.The Sewer Commission acted arbitrarily in forcing us toinstall grinder pumps. We were threatened with fines andliens on our homes if we did not connect to the sewersystem. Many of us had septic systems in perfect workingorder that had passed Title V inspection. Grinder pumpshave devalued our property and no one seems to beresponsible; indeed, sadly, to date, not one public official hascome to our support, or has stated publicly that the situationis inequitable and must be addressed.Clearly, this situation is inequitable and intolerable. Whetheryou are in office or currently running for office, we seek yourpublic views on this situation and support for a remedy thatwill treat all Chelmsford homeowners equally. Sincerely, Alan Jay Rom Mansfield Drive

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