HAVERHILL — A million-dollar project is being delayed by a $25,000 sewer connection.
Hatchland Farm cannot open its ice cream plant and retail store on Route 10 until its sewer connection application is resolved.
Owner Howard Hatch described a slow and frustrating process, and this week he voiced his annoyance. A Select Board member, he spoke up during the Oct. 12 board meeting.
“This is bull****,” he said.
Connecting to the sewer system used to be simple. Too simple, it turns out.
The N.H. Department of Environmental Services found the local rules lacking. So they ordered the Woodsville Fire District and the Town of Haverhill to comply with state regulations.
The Woodsville Fire District, which owns and operates the wastewater treatment plant, responded with an updated Sewer Use Ordinance in March.
Hatchland Farms was the first sewer connection applicant to encounter the stricter guidelines.
Hatch said neither the town nor the district have provided clear directions for navigating the new process. That’s because they were unfamiliar with it too, he said.
“Why can’t the Town of Haverhill say ‘This is what you’ve got to do to comply?” he asked.
His daughter Kris May, office manager for Hatchland Farm, said it wasn’t any single person’s fault. Rather, she said, it was an across-the-board institutional problem.
“We’ve had to do the research, we’ve had to do everything. It’s been extremely time-consuming. I don’t want to say people weren’t helpful, but there was no guidance,” she said.
The process is multilayered.
Locally, sewer connections must be approved by the Town of Haverhill and Woodsville Fire District. The town owns the North Haverhill sewer line, which feeds into the precinct system. They split the $25,000 connection fee.
There is also a state component.
Hatchland must submit an Indirect Discharge Request (IDR), to assure that its industrial waste will not have a negative impact on the operation and safety of the Woodsville wastewater treatment plant.
The IDR must be approved by the state Department of Environmental Services before a sewer connection permit can be issued at the local level.
For Hachland, there were more hurdles.
Because they are located within close proximity to the North Haverhill sewer line, they had to connect. They could not pursue a lower-cost, less intensive septic system.
Because they had to connect, they were bound to local and DES regulations regarding industrial waste. That includes solvents used to clean industrial machinery.
Because they are located on a pressurized section of line, they are required to install a costly pump system, and must perform a costly engineering study, to ensure they do not damage the sewer line.
All of that irked Hatch.
Adding to his aggravation, he hired engineers to complete the IDR and design the pump system. That work ran months late, and when plans and information were finally submitted, it neither met DES requirements (who requested more info) nor satisfied contractors (who submitted quotes that ranged from $7,500 to $30,000).
Once again, due to a lack of guidance, Hatchland was left in the lurch.
Alxis Rastorguyeff, an industrial pretreatment supervisor at DES, said the IDR process should be quick (“A matter of weeks”) once the required information is filed. He added that he understood Hatch’s irritation.
“I can sympathize,” he said. “It’s a small business and he’s obviously interested in making what he makes, while dealing with requirements and regulations.”
Hatchland Farms began planning its new facility five years ago.
The approximate 7,500 square foot building will house an ice cream manufacturing line, a commercial kitchen, a retail store, and an ice cream stand/coffee bar.
Plans are still coming together but the kitchen, in addition to producing items for packaged ice cream (e.g. apple pies for apple pie ice cream) and ice cream stand offerings (e.g. brownies for brownie sundaes), could also serve up breakfast offerings and daily lunch specials. The coffee bar is slated to offer locally roasted coffee, and possibly grab-and-go items like muffins or scones. The retail store is expected to sell a combination of Hatchland products (ice cream, milk, cheese, bread), locally produced products (yogurt, kettle corn, maple syrup, etc.), and select out-of-area items (which can’t be found elsewhere).
It will allow Hatchland, which has traditionally wholesaled most of its products, to expand its retail footprint and improve its profit margin.
It will replace Hatchland’s current dairy bar located across the street.
According to Hatch, construction began on July 4, 2020, and the business was slated to open by Columbus Day. Now the opening has been postponed indefinitely until the engineering firm can submit the necessary information to DES and the outstanding pump system work can be completed.
Annoyed with all of the hold-ups, red tape, and lack of direction, Hatch took his complaints to the Select Board last week. Speaking as a citizen, he asked for someone to do something. At one point Hatch asked this his $25,000 connection fee, which he paid upfront, be refunded until the matter was resolved.
He summed up his accumulated frustrations with a simple plea.
“We need some friggin’ help,” he said.