West Acton Sewer Information

Have questions about the sewer project? Here are answers to frequently asked questions!

West Acton Sewer Project (webpage)

Project Overview

The West Acton Sewer Continuation Project is a continuation of the sewer program started in 1945. Since 2002, the Town has owned and operated a public sewer system which currently serves South Acton, Kelley's Corner and the AB High School Campus. As part of the approval from the state to build the system, the Town was required to plan for future areas to continue the sewer project. West Acton was identified as a high-priority, future area to connect to the existing sewer system.

An investment was made in 2002 to not only provide sewer to the existing sewer area, but to provide additional capacity at the existing treatment plant for these future areas. Future areas to connect were identified in a Comprehensive Water Resource Management Plan (CWRMP) which identified areas town-wide where septic systems were potentially either environmentally or economically not viable. The report was required and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in 2006. The Town has been making progress on meeting the goals of the CWRMP since.

West Acton Sewers has been a goal of the Board of Selectmen (2014-16), a goal of the Acton 2020 Master Plan and a priority of the CWRMP. In 2017 the Board of Selectmen formed the West Acton Sewer Action Advisory Committee (WASAAC) to study feasibility of sewering West Acton. Evaluating sewer feasibility and determining the next steps is a short-term goal of the Board of Selectmen in 2019. The sewer project warrant article at the December 10th Town Meeting has been recommended by the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee. The sewer project has also been supported by the Acton Board of Health, the Economic Development Committee and WASAAC.

If approved at Town Meeting December 10th, the West Acton sewer project will provide a sewer option for the Douglas/Gates School project and provide critical infrastructure to a key economic center of Town. The total project cost is estimated at $15,200,000 and comprised of approximately:

  • $13,200,000 for total construction costs, which includes a 10% contingency and a conservative estimate of costs anticipated in 2020/2021,
  • $1,000,000 for all design costs, a portion of which includes the full repayment of funds authorized by Town Meeting in April 2019 for a preliminary sewer design,
  • $1,000,000 of project costs paid by West Acton sewers for the existing sewer system to be used for maintenance and upgrades of the existing sewer treatment plant.

If approved at Town Meeting December 10th, the Town will finance this cost through low-interest borrowing from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust over a term of 30-years. Approximately 78% of the total project cost will be paid for by the West Acton sewer users over 30-years in the form of betterments. The remainder is paid by government agencies such as the Town, which pays for general project benefits such as paving roads and connecting town buildings to the sewer, and the School District which pays an equal cost to what they avoid spending on constructing a new septic system. 

If approved at Town Meeting December 10th, the total estimated cost for a single-family home is in the range of $35,000 to $39,000, comparable to a septic system replacement, which over 30-years translates to a monthly payment of about $156/month.

Please review the frequently asked questions about the project here.

Why Should The Project Happen Now?

  1. Leverage state funding. $13 million in low interest loans are available from the state's Clean Water Trust. The sewer project is a priority project for the Trust's State Revolving Fund and $1.34 million is immediately available to the Town to use for Phase 1 of the sewer project (a sewer connection for the Gates/Douglas school project) if approved by Town Meeting.
  2. The projects supports, and is supported by, the West Acton business community. The commercial area of West Acton would pay for nearly a third of the project's costs. Sewers are a critical need for a key economic center of Acton:
    • "..sewer is exactly the critical piece of infrastructure West Acton needs to sustain the expanding village economy. It will support the walkable and lively town center that the residents of our community say they want" - Mathias Rosenfeld, West Acton Villageworks Owner
    • "Town sewer in West Acton would give us an opportunity to grow our business in new ways" – Chris Powell, Orange Door Kitchen 
    • "There is a lot of momentum and excitement in West Acton, but in order for it to reach its potential as a vibrant, walkable commercial district, and attract more high quality businesses, we need sewer services." – Lucy Goldstein, Wellness at Villageworks 
  3. Sewers helps support a walkable, village neighborhood. Septic systems are challenging to replace in a dense neighborhood like West Acton which has smaller properties due to being it being a village community.
  4. The sewer warrant article at the December 10th Town Meeting is recommended by:
    • The Acton Board of Selectmen
    • The Acton Finance Committee
  5. The project is also supported by:
    • The Acton Board of Health
    • The Acton Economic Development Committee
    • The West Acton Sewer Action Advisory Committee

More emails from West Acton business owners can be read here and video of a public forum for business owners can be watched on YouTube here.

Current Project Status [Last Updated November 20, 2019]

The sewer project is scheduled to be voted on at the December 10th Town Meeting and has been recommended by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee

Letters with the draft sewer assessments (known as a sewer "betterment") have been mailed to properties in the project area and are available online here. Estimated costs for the sewer betterments are $34,000 to $39,000 per sewer betterment unit (SBU):

  • 1-single family property = 1 SBU (say $36,500 per single-family home)
  •  Multi-family buildings (1- and 2-bedroom condos/apartments) = 2/3 SBU per unit (say $24,350 per unit)
  • Commercial properties assessed by lot size (1 SBU = +/- 5,750 SF lot area)

Government-owned properties (W.Acton Fire Station, Library, etc) are not assessed betterments. General tax payers pay to connect public properties to sewer the equivalent of the cost of an on-site septic system for that property and for general project benefits such as repaving roads and police details. The draft total project cost estimate, a sample letter and information on individual properties are available on the WASAAC docushare page.

Next Steps & Timeline

The sewer project is scheduled to be voted on at the December 10th Town Meeting and has been recommended by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee.

Timeline & Events:

  • Tuesdays (8:00AM to 7:30 PM). Please visit the Engineering Department during the new Town Hall hours to ask questions and learn about the project.
  • September 12th - WASAAC Committee Meeting & Public Forum at Town Hall to finalize project limits
  • September22nd - WASAAC Information at the Acton Boxborough Farmers Market: https://abfarmersmarket.org/
  • September 26th - Senior Center/Human Services Open House (30 Sudbury Road)
  • September 29th - West Acton Oktoberfest: http://www.westactonvillageworks.com/events/2018/8/31/west-acton-village-oktoberfest
  • October 10th - WASAAC Committee Meeting & Public Forum at Villageworks, 525 Mass Ave West Acton
  • October 23rd - Preliminary sewer betterments mailed to property owners in project area
  • November 14th - WASAAC Committee Meeting & Public Forum. 
  • November 18th - Board of Selectmen Meeting. Recommendation to Town Meeting.
  • December 10th Special Town Meeting - Final Design & Construction Funds vote
  • Construction - 2-3 years after approval of construction funds (2020-2023)
    • Phase 1 (June 2020 - August 2020) - Gates/Douglas sewer connection (Spruce Street and Mass Ave)
    • Phase 2 (May 2021 - November 2022) - Remainder of construction in West Acton sewer area
  • Spring 2023 - Start of sewer betterment payments

Why West Acton?

  1. Third highest ranked priority area identified by CWRMP. Septic replacements may be challenging to meet current standards:
    • "The majority of lots...due to the proximity of Middle Fort Pond Brook [are limited for] onsite wastewater systems due to wetlands and high groundwater" 
    • "..over 50% of the developed parcels [in West Acton] are classified as [limited septic] parcels. This is the second greatest percentage in the identified Needs Areas"
  2.  The project can provide a sewer connection for the new Gates/Douglas school building by summer 2020
  3. Sewers support local businesses and are vital for Economic Sustainability:
    • CWRMP: "[West Acton] is targeted for economic growth"
    • Acton 2020 Goals: "Consider extension of sewer in West Acton to serve [the] commercial area and high priority neighborhood identified in the [CWRMP]"
    • "There is a lot of momentum and excitement in West Acton, but in order for it to reach its potential as a vibrant, walkable commercial district, and attract more high quality businesses, we need sewer services." – Lucy Goldstein, Wellness at Villageworks
  4. The sewer warrant article at the December 10th Town Meeting is recommended by:
    • The Acton Board of Selectmen
    • The Acton Finance Committee
  5. The project is also supported by:
    • The Acton Board of Health
    • The Acton Economic Development Committee
    • The West Acton Sewer Action Advisory Committee


West Acton Public Outreach