By Hiroko Sato
GROTON -- Devon Haigh said he was excited to read in a letter he received from the town some time ago that his Lost Lake neighborhood might soon get sewer lines -- until he did some math.
A projected betterment fee, connection fee and user fees for him amounted to easily more than $40,000. The system the money would buy requires electrical pumps, meaning it wouldn't do the job if the power goes out during a storm. While Lost Lake is known for overgrown weeds, presumably due to nitrogen and phosphorus from septic runoffs from area homes, Haigh isn't convinced what sacrificing his child's college fund for the sewer system would accomplish, as no water-testing results are presented to voters.
The town's consultant on the sewer project had just made a presentation at fall Town Meeting Monday night.
"Show me the proof" that the system will be worth the money, Haigh said, looking at the standing-room-only crowd. "Why are we not looking deeper?"
Roger Cruz, who lives in the neighborhood, also wanted to know exactly how many chemicals are present and from which streams the chemicals flow into the lake.
"We didn't hear how many systems are failing," Cruz said of the residential septic systems.
Faced with mounting questions about water-testing data Monday, selectmen proposed to indefinitely postpone the proposal to build a $12.9 million sewer system for the Lost Lake and Four Corner neighborhoods.
The project stemmed from four years of feasibility studies by the Lost Lake Sewer Committee, which Town Meeting created four years ago. Officials have said many aging septic systems in the former summer-cottage neighborhood around Lost Lake are failing, threatening the town's drinking well nearby. Most properties don't have enough land to satisfy today's septic codes, and that affects the homeowners' ability to sell their properties, according to the Lost Lake Sewer Committee.
Selectmen proposed to build a sewer system that serves Lost Lake and the Four Corners commercial district and send the sewerage to Ayer. It would not only help save the environment, but also help boost the local economy by enabling developers to bring restaurants and other types of businesses to Four Corners without concerns over septic-capacity limits, they have said.
Selectman Jack Petropoulos said, however, that the committee and its consultant relied on 20-year-old test results to push for the project. Even though it's important to address the issues of failing septic systems and to protect drinking-water sources, he did not see any firm figures that would suggest the proposed project is the right solution, he said.
Planning Board member Scott Wilson said the town has debated the matter for decades.
"It comes to a point where we need to make a decision," Wilson said.
Many residents demanded data, however. Some also said the proposal to have Lost Lake residents shoulder 45 percent of the projected cost may not be fair, as the project could benefit the entire town.
Fall Town Meeting resumes at 7 p.m. on Oct. 29 to vote on the rest of the warrant.