Matt Labovites, director of sewer operations for the Worcester, Mass. Department of Public Works (DPW), believes that working with advocacy groups is typically more productive than fighting them. So in early 1995 when Worcester needed to upgrade a huge surface sewer on Belmont Street near lake Quinsigamond, local advocacy groups urged the DPW to consider water quality, as well as water quantity in planning the upgrade.
“We were looking at the problem from a quantity point of view. The infrastructure was clearly inadequate, and the undersized sewer had become prone to surcharging, which lead to erosion on the banks the lake,” said Labovites. “We knew we needed to upsize the sewer. But it wasn’t until local groups, and internal staff, pointed out that upgrading the sewer offered us a great opportunity to improve the water quality,” he said.
“Incremental residential and commercial growth over the years that tied into the 48-inch surface sewer meant that the system was just too small to handle the flows,” said Labovites. The surcharges led to an intermittent flow of silt and gravel into Lake Quinsigamond from the 226 acre subwatershed surrounding it.
Worcester hired Beta Engineering of Norwood, Mass. to design a stormwater treatment system and the new sewer upgrade. The firm specified the Vortechs® System to remove oil and grit, which comprised the bulk of the stormwater contaminants in the area around the lake. Labovites said that the city has been so pleased with the improvements at the Belmont Street site that it has made stormwater quality a consideration in the planning for many capital projects.
“Ten years ago these types of systems would not have been installed,” said Labovites. “We have embarked on a public information campaign using our bill inserts to help residents understand what we are doing to protect the water quality of the lake.”
Fourteen tons of sediment have been reclaimed from the Vortechs on Belmont Street. “This is all material that would have ended up in the lake,” said Labovites. Like other systems designed to capture oil and sediment, it requires periodic cleanouts. “It only needs to be cleaned out every 18 months or so, and we do it with the city’s vacuum flusher truck,” he said.