An open letter to residents of Morrisville, Morristown and greater Lamoille County:
We, James Griffith and Allen Van Anda, have built our lives around Morrisville. When we began to look for a location to build our brewery in 2012, it was very important for us to locate in Morrisville.
In 2013, when we decided to start our business and build the brewery, we were very excited to be a part of Morrisville. The support we have received from the community has been immeasurable and we are forever grateful for your support.
Morrisville Water and Light trustees recently passed a new sewer ordinance. We would like to take the opportunity to share a point of view from one of the “few high-strength customers” that will be greatly impacted by this new ordinance.
In 2009, Morrisville’s wastewater treatment facility was upgraded. When we reviewed the original designs from the upgrade, flow was increased. However, biochemical oxygen demand — BOD for short — was not increased. The upgrades to the plant were based on residential usage and no consideration of business growth was factored into the upgrades.
In conversations with Craig Myotte, general manager of Morrisville Water and Light, he has admitted to this oversight.
Higher BOD levels were being realized at the treatment plant beginning in 2012 when various new connections were made, including Harrell Street and businesses around the traffic circle. From 2012 to 2018, Morrisville grew and, as Mr. Myotte states, “BOD levels increased higher than expected.”
It makes sense that there was a “mismatch between flow and BOD levels” because the 2009 upgrades did not increase BOD. Also, one area business was identified as contributing higher levels of BOD and has since corrected this. Average 2019 BOD numbers have been the lowest the plant has seen since 2012.
Why charge only three local businesses? The new ordinance gives Morrisville Water and Light broad authority to impose “high-strength rates and fees” on any business or residential location that discharges “an average five-day BOD concentration greater than 300 mg/l.” The 300 mg/l is only slightly higher than the average residential rate of 230mg/l. Mr. Myotte states that the new ordinance will “provide more equitable sewer rates.” Mr. Myotte then goes on to say that only a few businesses in town (three to be exact) will be charged these new rates. Far from equitable.
In the spring of 2018, Morrisville Water and Light tested 27 sites around town for BOD levels. Twenty-four of the 27 sites tested yielded results above 300mg/l. Morrisville Water and Light does not have the infrastructure to isolate and test all locations on a regular basis and therefore does not have the ability to “institute appropriate rates for businesses that require additional resources to treat their production waste.”
Both breweries in Morrisville operate under a strict state-issued wastewater permit with oversight from the federal government. Under this permit, we are required to monitor our wastewater daily and test BOD concentrations weekly. We have always remained in compliance with our permit and strive to protect our local lakes and streams.
The ordinance was passed without a set rate structure included. We assume that the new rate structure will impact our business, with new fees totaling roughly 250 percent increase per year. We are certain our contribution to the sewer system does not justify a 250 percent increase per year.
During the years that BOD was high at the plant, Morrisville Water and Light remained profitable, operating in the black every year. BOD levels are now in the 45 to 50 percent capacity range. This means the cost to treat has reduced, yet we will still be charged the new rates.
The amount of time, effort and money we as a business have invested in hopes to work together with Morrisville Water and Light has been staggering. It is unfortunate to see how a local governing body has treated small, local business owners.
We feel our local utility has no concern of keeping our business or any business in Morrisville. We found this out the hard way and are extremely disappointed in our experience.
We believe the best path forward for all Morrisville and Morristown residents is to place the local sewer and water department under the control of the Morristown Select Board. Morristown has a much larger tax base and is much more capable to handle the continued growth of our town, along with daily operations of these utilities.
Jamie Griffith and Allen Van Anda are co-owners of Lost Nation Brewing.