Feeling guilty for using too much water in the shower or on your lawn? Until recently, Maynard’s sewer plant had you beat.
Waste-water treatment plants require large amounts of water for a variety of uses, including washing down machinery, keeping pump components cool, and carrying treatment chemicals. Until a few weeks ago, Maynard used town drinking water for these processes, pumping up to 40,000 gallons through the sewer plant some days.
For a $23,000 upgrade, the town has switched to using treated waste water for the plant’s operations. Officials say the facility now uses only around 300 gallons of drinking water a day, which translates to a reduction of roughly 10 million gallons a year.
“It’s a big savings,” said David Simmons, the plant manager. “The town doesn’t have to pump and treat 10 million gallons of drinking water . . . basically to flush down the toilet.”
Simmons said the sewer plant previously had a system for reusing the cleaned waste water, but that it was in disrepair. The treated waste water is clear and meets required limits on the amount of bacteria it contains, Simmons said.
Ed Coletta, spokesman for state Department of Environmental Protection, said the fix is a “win-win” because it lessens the plant’s environmental impact while also saving the town money.
“There’s a financial savings, because the drinking water is something the town has to pay to pump and clean and get it through the system,” Coletta said.
Coletta didn’t have numbers on how many communities in Massachusetts reuse waste water, but he said it’s been happening for up to 20 years in some places. Gillette Stadium in Foxborough he said, uses cleaned waste water for landscaping and to flush its toilets.
Although Massachusetts is considered a “water-rich” state, Coletta said, some communities still experience shortages during the summer, and many impose seasonal limits on outdoor water use.
“It’s great that the water that is available is being used wisely and not being put into the waste-water system,” Coletta said.
Maynard Town Administrator Michael Sullivan said he wasn’t sure how much money the town would save, but noted that a residential user who glugged through 10 million gallons of water in a year would face a bill of around $92,000.
Sullivan said the town is looking into the possibility of expanding use of the cleaned waste water. For example, he said, officials are looking for an affordable way to pump it to a town-owned golf course for irrigation use.
Sullivan expressed delight that the town could reuse its waste water to meet some of its needs.
“It almost seems like some kind of a magic trick when I think about it,” he said.