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Senator Velis seeks funds for Agawam’s aging sewers

Date: 8/7/2022

AGAWAM - Agawam would receive $1.5 million from the state to assist in repairs and refurbishment for an aging section of sewer pipe on Main Street if a $4.57 billion economic development bill, currently in a conference committee, reaches consensus to be forwarded to Gov. Charlie Baker.

The amendment for the sewer replacement was proposed by state Sen. John Velis.

“Kudos to Sen. Velis. He walks the walk and talks the talk. This is going to help us address some of those issues,” said Agawam Mayor William Sapelli.

Sapelli said the funding will allow the town to make headway on replacing sections of some 5 miles of sewer pipe that run parallel to Main Street from Town Hall until the Connecticut border. The sewer pipes in this area are between 80-100 years-old and carry about a third of the town’s sewage on its way to Bondi’s Island treatment plant.

Last month at an estimated 540,000 gallons of untreated sewage were released into the Westfield River due to a broken sewer pipe along Main Street that went unreported for at least a week. The leak was temporarily stopped on July 8, and repairs were completed by the end of the month after an emergency order was issued to make the repairs.

According to Velis, the accident highlighted the need for the funding. “I’d heard from a lot of residents that this had happened and it obviously is a really, really big deal,” said Velis. “These projects cost a lot of money,” he said.

Sapelli estimates the entire Main Street project will ultimately cost $10 million, but that the town plans to complete it “piecemeal.”
“Right now, we’re going to rehab the most important issues,” said Sapelli, who said the town did not have the money to complete the project all at once.

Water and sewer use rates were increased by Agawam Town Council in June. Despite this, Agawam has among the lowest rates for water and sewer in the Greater Springfield area. Sapelli said he did not believe the town needed to further increase rates to make necessary upgrades to its sewer pipe infrastructure. “You don’t just take a look at a project like that and say we’re going to raise the money for this by raising rates, because that’s not fair to residents,” he said.

Sapelli said the town did not have plans to install sensors in its sewer pipes that could alert the town to future issues.