Wednesday April 24, 2013

WILMINGTON --The Wilmington Water Department has been busy finding a way to treat its water supply that comes from surface water.

On April 17, Chris Lavoy, a Wilmington Water District operator, discussed a Water Supply Options Evaluation Report with the Selectboard, which gave insight to where the Water Department is at.

"We’re trying to develop springs," he told the Reformer. "Enough springs to give us 42 gallons a minute that (would) actually produce the ground water for us."

That is one of the options available for the water district.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new Long Term Surface Water Treatment Rule, or the LT2 Rule, calls for either filtration or changes to water systems where water supply either has surface water in it or is underneath the influence of surface water.

The deadline for making the changes to the water supply is Oct. 1, 2014.

"The Water Department has never been out of compliance," said Lavoy. "If we fail to meet that deadline, we’d be out compliance."

Using a benefit cost analysis, Lavoy came up with four ideas for either replacing or treating the water that is under the influence of surface water,

Drilling a well is the first option. The second one is putting in ultraviolet lights into the filtration system, which would disinfect the water. Another idea is developing more springs, which Lavoy is currently looking into. The fourth option is abandoning the springs under the influence of surface water, by drilling a well and combining that water with water coming from ground water springs.

Around 40 percent of the water coming from the 17 springs located on a portion of Haystack Mountain owned by the National Forest Services has to either be disinfected or replaced with ground water.

After conducting a benefit cost analysis, Lavoy said the Water Department is looking at replacing those 17 springs because although only three of them are under the influence of surface water, the entire water supply from those springs is blended.

"One option is to drill a well," he said. "We do think that’s one of our better options."

Although it would be beneficial in the long term, this would cost a considerable amount. However, drilling a well would require cheaper maintenance than the other options.

Digging up more springs, similar to the ones at Haystack, was another idea.

"I’ve been working with National Forests to get test holes for constructing additional springs," said Lavoy.

Drilling a well or digging up springs are both ways that would abandon the water supply under the influence of surface water.

For disinfecting the water, Lavoy discussed treating the water by putting in a filtration system that involves ultraviolet lights. This would cost $200,000.

Another option had been to build a filtration plant, which would be even more expensive, costing between $800,000 to $1 million.

These treatments that involve disinfecting the water supply are expensive for a water district that only has one operator.

On April 19, Lavoy had gone out looking at sites with some hydrologists.

"We came up with 17 test areas and locations that were possible for springs," said Lavoy.

Springs usually produce ground water, so that would be a good alternative for the Wilmington Water Department.

The springs on Haystack Mountain that are already part of the water supply for the water district is at a grade that is "almost filtered water," Lavoy said.

Due to its grade, the state of Vermont issued the water district a waiver in filtration for its water. It is the only water system in the state to have such a thing.

"It’s pretty clean since it’s in such a pristine setting with no commercial businesses and no houses. It’s really just off in the wilderness," he said.

Lavoy had been planning to go to the Wilmington Water District Department, which is its own municipality, to see if its members wanted to raise money and borrow money from a state-issued bond for construction projects to assist the Water Department with construction project costs.

Last week, he had received news that the Water District had just gotten onto a list for a revolving loan, so the bond vote can wait until at least July 1, 2014.

Lavoy is waiting to get a construction permit now. Getting onto the revolving loan fund will be helpful to the Water District.

"There’s a possibility, if once I get a permit in with the state to construct one or more of those options, whether it’s ultraviolet or drilling a well or adding additional springs... (there may be an extension for the Oct. 1, 2014 deadline)," said Lavoy. "Then as long as the Water Department is making capital improvements, the state has the authority to extend the 2014 deadline up to two years."

Last year, the Wilmington Selectboard and Wilmington Water Department signed a memorandum that made both parties aware that a future merger could be possible, where the town would end up owning the Water District.

Although subscribers of the Water District as well as the residents would have to vote to approve the merger, the subject had been brought up at the annual water district meeting earlier in March as well as the last Selectboard meeting.

Lavoy told the board that the possibility was still on the table but there was no new reports.

"I thought it would be good to get the two boards together to see where they stand, where we stand and if we can help if they need it," said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.