Town to monitor treatment of water

MERRIMACK – Selectmen on Thursday agreed to spend $30,000 in sewer user fees for an engineer to represent the town as Anheuser-Busch prepares to build a facility to treat a wastewater byproduct of its brewing operations.

Although the facility itself will be built with Anheuser-Busch money, the town will keep close tabs on the process, Public Works Director Ed Chase said.

“There’s always been a need for a consultant to represent the town,” Chase said in answering a selectman’s question about why the town should spend money to hire an engineer.

“There’s still a need for us to evaluate the wastewater as it comes through our plant,” Chase said.

He noted that periodically other town money will have to be spent associated with the project. However, that money will be more than offset by what the town won’t have to spend to treat the wastewater because the brewery is footing the bill, he said.

Anheuser-Busch, which brews Budweiser and other beer, is the largest producer of wastewater treated at the town’s Mast Road plant.

In September, selectmen endorsed a proposal by Anheuser-Busch to construct an approximately $20 million anaerobic treatment facility at the company’s Daniel Webster Highway brewery.

When the company, after a series of discussions with town officials, agreed in principle to build the treatment facility, the town was off the hook to have to spend nearly $10 million to construct its own treatment facility.

With that cost off the table, the town was able to commit capital reserve money – money saved up through sewer user fees – for a slate of other projects, such as rebuilding sewer lines in Reeds Ferry and constructing a primary clarifier at the Mast Road plant.

“This is a massive project that Anheuser-Busch is undertaking that will literally save the town millions and millions of dollars,” Chase said Thursday.

Larry Spencer, assistant Public Works director, reminded the board that the town will soon be seeking a new permit for the plant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“We need defendable numbers to present the EPA,” Spencer said.

The treatment process, expected to be in place by June 2006, will take a strain off the wastewater plant and reduce an odor problem there.

Anheuser-Busch still must receive state and federal environmental permits, and the construction will have to be approved by the town Planning Board.