Part of Norwich green to be closed because of septic problem

Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 09, 2019

NORWICH — Calls for a study of Hartford’s sewer capacity could delay plans to fix or replace a failing septic system at the Marion Cross School, according to Norwich school officials.

The Hartford Selectboard last month requested an analysis of the town’s sewer, with officials saying they need to better understand the system’s current capacity before acting on a possible extension to Norwich.

However, it appears unlikely that analysis can be wrapped up in time for Town Meeting, where Norwich school officials hoped to present a plan to voters to fix the septic system, which includes a failing leach field that sometimes allows effluent to seep onto the town green. Instead, Norwich may be forced to hold a special Town Meeting or wait until 2021 to seek resident approval.

“I’ll try to be optimistic that (a vote) may still happen, but we have had a couple of reasons that it may need to be pushed off,” Norwich School Board Chairman Tom Candon told colleagues during an Oct. 2 meeting.

In the meantime, Candon said the Norwich green will be partially closed starting Nov. 1 to prevent people from walking on the Marion Cross School’s drainage fields.

Fences will follow the sidewalk between the green and school from Girard Way to the basketball court. The fence would extend south to the green’s midpoint, but it’s unlikely to affect the town’s ice skating rink, Candon said in an email on Wednesday.

Norwich Recreation Director Brie Berry Swenson said she also has been assured the fence won’t impact plans for the rink. However, details with the school district haven’t yet been worked out, she said on Wednesday.

Over the past year, the School Board has explored several options to fix the Marion Cross School’s failing septic system, which drains into four fields on the green. Consultants say activities above the fields have contributed to problems, which sometimes result in the effluent emerging during the winter.

The district’s preferred option would see Hartford’s sewer line routed about 1.3 miles along Route 5. The project could cost $1.7 million, engineers have warned, but the district hopes some of that could be covered through grants.

The extension could allow King Arthur Flour, The Family Place, White River Subaru and Norwich Commerce Park to hook up to the sewer system as well, officials say.

The School Board also is considering replacing the septic system on the green. At about $275,000, consultants say the project would cost less but be subject to the same problems the current system sees.

Officials had explored moving the septic system to the town-owned Peisch property, a wooded lot between the school and Interstate 91. But they dropped the option from consideration last week after being told wetlands and ledge on the property were not suitable for leach fields.

There are two other possibilities the School Board isn’t yet considering but may in the future, Candon said. They include building a septic system underneath the Dresden playing fields or seeking a sewer extension from Hanover.

Candon said he hopes to present Hartford officials with a memorandum of understanding for a sewer analysis this week, adding that costs of the study will be paid by the school district. In past meetings, Hartford officials have said that all costs of the project, including future maintenance, should be borne by the Norwich School District.

The town of Norwich might also be brought into the project, with its Selectboard potentially being called on to sponsor grants, officials in Norwich have said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.