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Bringing the 19th Century into the 21st Century

An aerial shot of the Gould Farm lagoons (the two rectangular pools, bottom-right). Gould Road runs along the left side of the photo. The buildings visible in the photos are on the upper and lower campuses of Farm property. Photo by Nathaniel Rundle.

Those of us who love old homes may tend to overlook or even romanticize the creaky floorboards and hinges, the gentle slope of a room's floors, the narrow back stair treads. But, the tension for any such appreciative property owner is the knowledge that there are challenges related to these places we love—namely cost and time devoted to upkeep, preservation, and, when called for, replacement.

Engineering specs. showing the 2,000 linear foot force main through which treated wastewater is pumped from the lagoons to the sand beds. Stubbed-out (capped) line extensions were proactively designed and installed when connections were made for campus houses previously on septic. Subject to planning permission, these could serve future new build residence(s) with minimal connection cost/work.

Purchased in the fall of 1913, Gould Farm's original Main House was already over a century old, with numerous extensions added since. Over the years, the community grew, primarily by long-term and visiting residents self-building (and later deeding over) summer cottages dotted across the property.

All of these structures have and continue to require significant investments to support the residential community of guests, staff, and volunteers calling the campus home. Two major infrastructure projects—a wastewater treatment facility upgrade and biomass boiler, undertaken nearly 10-15 years ago now—sought to improve efficiency, safety, and environmental impacts while allowing Gould Farm to increase the capacity of our therapeutic work programs and guest housing.

Eric stands near the 1,500 gallon, 16’ deep wet well/pump chamber. A second 12,000 gallon flow equalization tank operates during high flow and acts as a fail-safe.

With the 2004 ground breaking on our newest guest residence, Orchard House (our first since 1978), and later with plans for a community center (Rev. Hampton E. Price Community Center), the Farm was required to upgrade the existing well and wastewater facilities. A large portion of the funds earmarked for the improvements came from the state in 2005, in the form of a $600,000 grant made under the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program received as the result of the Farm setting aside 220 acres of land for agricultural use under a permanent deed restriction.

Maintenance team member, Eric Martin, gave a tour of the wastewater treatment facilities recently—explaining the lagoon system, daily monitoring, periodic testing and reporting, licensure requirements, and how the redesign was thoughtfully engineered with future-proofing in mind. It was completed over 4 years (in 2016), in a phased approach–first connecting the Rawson Brook cottages to the lagoons; then reconfiguring the drinking water system; and finally constructing the pump system, control shed, force main, and filtering sand beds.

While Eric holds and maintains continuing education for a grade-2 facility operator certification in the state of Massachusetts, he also is a gifted musician and music teacher—qualities which made the tour a bit like listening to your favorite 6th-grade science teacher explain complex concepts. 

High-tech process control instruments and monitors are used for the system testing done in the pump house—including: Total Residual Chlorine (TRC), pH, coliform count, and flow rates. This equipment, fees for independent lab tests and annual permitting, and the duckweed harvesting and spreading equipment represent the largest annual and future costs in the system.

Eric noted that the original lagoons were built in 1972 and dredged in the early 90s and again just a few years ago to address the less permeable layer of deposits that forms and reduces retention/treatment time. The tiered man-made lagoons are a series of 6’ deep ponds in which effluent is broken down through a natural process of sunlight, wind, and microorganisms. Regular upkeep includes the removal of duckweed—which feeds off of the lagoons’ nitrogen and phosphorus—choking out the oxygen in the ponds and increasing the thick sediment blanket. To address that, the maintenance team spends several full days each year using a cranberry bog harvesting trailer backed into the water to rake out the weeds. 

Wrapping up the tour, Eric commented that this task has a unique element of camaraderie to it,

“With all of the required maintenance around the rest of the campus, it’s rare for the whole team to get to work together on a project. I think, for that reason, it’s actually been something we look forward to.”

…Illustrating that even our most environmentally conscious, technologically advanced infrastructure projects rely on one thing (beyond funding): Gould Farm’s traditional, hands-on collaborative approach.



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