WALPOLE, NH – Since most of the reporting on the Vilas Bridge wastewater issue has centered on Rockingham Selectboard meetings, it may be prudent to examine bridge meetings on the other side of the river, in Walpole, NH.
The Vilas Bridge was constructed around 1930 as a “Symbol of Friendship” between Vermont and New Hampshire, a sentiment that, at this point, seems more than ironic.
The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 2009 following a semi-annual inspection that found continued deterioration of the reinforced bridge deck.
The bridge was scheduled to be rehabilitated or replaced in 2015 in New Hampshire’s Ten Year Transportation Plan, but has been taken off the list.
Bellows Falls had no written wastewater contract with Walpole for 10 years. The Bellows Falls wastewater treatment plant has processed the waste for Walpole and North Walpole since 1989.
The longstanding issue of the wastewater line that runs across the closed and compromised Vilas Bridge has been addressed several times at Selectboard meetings in Walpole.
“Nothing would change with how Walpole’s wastewater would be treated; it would still go to Bellows Falls/Rockingham for treatment,” Selectboard Chair Steve Dalessio said. “To date, the only thing the Walpole Selectboard has done is to authorize their Water/Wastewater Department to begin preliminary engineering to move the wastewater line off the Vilas Bridge to connect to Green Street in North Walpole and then go over the Arch Bridge.”
“Walpole’s wastewater currently goes over the Vilas Bridge and North Walpole’s wastewater goes over the Arch Bridge and we are simply exploring the possibility of connecting Walpole’s main to North Walpole to eliminate the line going over the Vilas Bridge,” Rockingham Municipal Manager Chip Stearns said.
“Anything proactive to mitigate a disaster is a good thing.”
“There is no immediate concern on the part of the Selectboard that our wastewater will stop flowing across the Vilas Bridge but the Selectboard does think it is prudent that they take steps to move the wastewater lines from going across the bridge,” Dalessio said at a recent Selectboard session
A request that engineer Mark Houghton begin preliminary engineering on connecting the South Walpole force Main to North Walpole collection system was approved by the board.
At a recent Town of Rockingham meeting, Selectboard Chair Lamont Barnett successfully moved to obtain an opinion from an attorney to find out if the town has any legal standing regarding the 1992 agreement on maintenance of the bridge.