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Williamstown to Begin Smoke Testing of Sewer Lines on Monday

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Starting Monday in Williamstown, where there's smoke there's water.
Or, more to the point, there could be water leaking into the town's sanitary sewer lines.
Starting Monday the town and its engineering consultant, DPC Engineering of Longmeadow, will conduct smoke testing as part of a survey on the sewer lines.
The process involves blowing non-toxic smoke into the sewer mains and watching to see if any escapes at the surface.
If it does, that means there is possible leakage in the system at that point, which allows infiltration of groundwater into the system.
"This is all part of our evaluation overall," Town Manager Jason Hoch said during last week's Select Board meeting. "The challenge is when the pipes are underground you don't always know where the leaks are and where infiltration is."
Hoch said it is unlikely that the smoke will enter homes or businesses, but it could happen. He advised that if you have fixtures that are not regularly used, you may want to turn on the water and let it run for a minute to fill the trap, which may get dry from prolonged lack of use.
"If you happen to have a situation where smoke enters your building or business during testing, open the windows to allow ventilation," Hoch said.
The testing will take place between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., and sewer service will not be interrupted. The tests will help keep the town's wastewater treatment system be more efficient.
"One of the reasons we want to find where there may be slow infiltration into the system … in a lot of cases with pipes like this, it's stuff coming in, and you end up adding more groundwater into the system, more runoff into the system," Hoch said. "Once it hits the sewer pipes, it must all be treated. So one of the reasons we do this is to keep the ‘good' water out because you don't really need to be treating it. And that may change the capacity to the system.
"We've done most of the big stuff [finding infiltration points]. Now we're chasing increasingly smaller issues. This is one of the ways you find those increasingly smaller issues."
The board meeting was dominated by the continuing conversation in the community about the fallout from the discrimination lawsuit filed against the town, Hoch and Police Chief Kyle Johnson in August.
But the board also addressed a few other issues.
Hoch told the panel that the town is waiting for guidance from the state about trick-or-treating at the end of the month.
The Slect Board already had Halloween on its radar as an issue to address this fall after a 2019 accident involving a car and trick-or-treater on Cole Avenue, an area that has drawn children from various parts of town in recent years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into question trick-or-treating plans in towns across the country.
Hoch said the commonwealth has pointed municipalities to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is listing "traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door" as a "higher risk activity."
"We have had some conversations about whether we have a replacement event or what type of guidance would be most appropriate if a modified form of grab-and-go neighborhood trick-or-treating continues," Hoch said.
"I'm open to any great ideas people have now or over the next couple of weeks as we think about something that is both safe and fair. The answer is not just: Stay home by yourself and eat your own Kit Kats."
In other business, Hoch informed the Select Board that Dr. Devan Bartels has been appointed to the Board of Health.
And Andy Hogeland told his colleagues that the Spruces Land Use Committee voted earlier on Monday to formally disband as a town committee and reconstitute itself as a "Friends of the Spruces" group. The SLUC also decided to postpone until at least 2021 a bulb planting project at the Main Street park because volunteers might be concerned about transmission of the novel coronavirus during the planting project.

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Williamstown Volunteer of the Year Speaks for the Voiceless

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

Andi Bryant was presented the annual Community Service Award. 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Inclusion was a big topic at Thursday's annual town meeting — and not just because of arguments about the inclusivity of the Progress Pride flag.
The winner of this year's Scarborough-Salomon-Flynt Community Service Award had some thoughts about how exclusive the town has been and is.
"I want to talk about the financially downtrodden, the poor folk, the deprived, the indigent, the impoverished, the lower class," Andi Bryant said at the outset of the meeting. "I owe it to my mother to say something — a woman who taught me it was possible to make a meal out of almost nothing.
"I owe it to my dad to say something, a man who loved this town more than anyone I ever knew. A man who knew everyone, but almost no one knew what it was like for him. As he himself said, 'He didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.' "
Bryant was recognized by the Scarborough-Salomon-Flynt Committee as the organizer and manager of Remedy Hall, a new non-profit dedicated to providing daily necessities — everything from wheelchairs to plates to toothpaste — for those in need.
She started the non-profit in space at First Congregational Church where people can come and receive items, no questions asked, and learn about other services that are available in the community.
She told the town meeting members that people in difficult financial situations do, in fact, exist in Williamstown, despite the perceptions of many in and out of the town.
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