If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’re concerned about the ongoing issues involving the local water and sewer districts in the Town of Leicester. Me too. Like you, I recognize that these issues continue to impact ratepayers, and threaten the public health of neighbors in the community.
I have received dozens of calls and e-mails about these issues, and have continued to work with federal, state and local officials, and ratepayers, to discuss potential solutions to resolve these issues. Please know that I hear you, and will continue to offer my help, where possible, with addressing the many problems facing these districts, and to assist with responding to ratepayers' concerns.
It is important to highlight that I have no direct authority over the local water and sewer districts in Leicester. In fact, neither does the Commonwealth’s Department of Public Utilities. Despite the fact that these entities were established by various acts of the legislature during the early-to-mid 1900s, each district is a subscriber-owned independent entity governed by separate boards. I have, and will continue to, support the idea of filing legislation to amend the existing statutes if language is agreed upon by local ratepayers, approved, and submitted to me by each respective district.
With that said, resolving the issues with the drinking water and wastewater systems in Leicester should not be approached in a piecemeal fashion. Instead, a full review of these utilities should be completed to unite the patchwork of services in an efficient, viable model that meets the needs of the community.
To that end, I successfully advocated for an amendment to the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2020 state budget to address the ongoing issues involving the water and sewer districts in the Town of Leicester. The amendment, totaling $100,000, would support the development of a water and sewer economic infrastructure feasibility study and master plan for the Town.
The recent water shut-offs and potential bankruptcy of one of the sewer districts are of immediate concern to me, and I will continue to work with residents and local officials to try and work towards a broader solution to the issues facing these entities.
I am continuing to be involved as part of a working group made up of numerous stakeholders to work towards solutions to the issues facing these districts.
MICHAEL O. MOORE
Second Worcester District
One Town. Seven Districts.
The organizational makeup of water and sewer services within the Town of Leicester is complex. The community is carved into seven separate districts that provide either water or sewer services, or both. The primary districts at issue are the Cherry Valley and Rochdale Water District, and the Cherry Valley Sewer District (in bold below). The complete list of water and sewer districts in the Town of Leicester include:
Leicester Water and Sewer Districts
Cherry Valley and Rochdale Water District
Hillcrest Water and Sewer Districts
Oxford-Rochdale Sewer District
Cherry Valley Sewer District
Moose Hill Water Commission
Stiles Lake Water District
Approximately half (55%) of the Leicester population is serviced by the sewer districts, while the other half (45%) of residents possess private septic systems. Each district possesses its own governance structure comprised of commissioners elected by local ratepayers. Control of each of these entities is held at the ratepayer level.
Take, for example, the Cherry Valley and Rochdale Water District. While the District was established by an act of the legislature initially in 1910, authority to make significant changes relative to meetings, membership, etc. vests with the local ratepayers. The law - codified as Chapter 105 of the Acts of 1996 - already authorizes ratepayers within the District to amend the District's bylaws which include provisions relative to meetings and the election of commissioners.
In 2015, The Town of Leicester’s drinking water and wastewater districts continued to experience serious issues with the quality of water supplied, and the capacity of their systems.
In 2016, the Cherry Valley and Rochdale Water District (CVRWD) successfully pursued an emergency connection to the City of Worcester’s water system due to the District’s severely low water levels from the 2016 drought.
Later that year, a unilateral administrative order was issued to CVRWD by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The order required CVRWD to cease use of the existing water source, Henshaw Pond, until the District completed modifications to the treatment plant necessary to meet water quality standards.
Senator Moore and then-Representative Kate Campanale submitted a letter requesting the Department of Public Utilities to conduct a rate review of the CVRWD.
In 2018, Senator Moore worked to secure a $100,000 bond authorization for the development of a water and sewer economic infrastructure feasibility study and master plan in the Town of Leicester. The bond bill was signed into law on August 10, 2018 as Chapter 228 of the Acts of 2018.
In 2019, Senator Moore attended the Leicester Board of Selectmen’s meeting in January to discuss the possibility of the Cherry Valley Sewer District entering into bankruptcy. During the meeting, the Selectmen voted to form a subcommittee to discuss how to address impending bankruptcy concerns plaguing the District.
During the Fiscal Year 2020 Senate budget debate, Senator Moore successfully advocated for an amendment to address the ongoing issues involving the water and sewer districts in the Town of Leicester. The budget amendment, totaling $100,000, would support the development of a water and sewer economic infrastructure feasibility study and master plan for the Town.
A working group, composed of the Town of Leicester, the Leicester Water and Sewer Districts, the Cherry Valley Water District, the Hillcrest Water and Sewer Districts, the Oxford-Rochdale Sewer District, the Cherry Valley Sewer District, the Moose Hill Water Commission, Representative LeBoeuf, and Senator Moore continues to meet regularly. This group was formed to discuss the financial issues of the Cherry Valley Sewer District, but has been open to discussion about concerns regarding all of the districts.
Ideas have been discussed, but at this time, the only action plan currently recommended is for the districts to participate in a study funded by the Commonwealth.