More than 20 years ago the Abington/Rockland Joint Water Works dug a fourth well at its wellfield off Myers Avenue – but it was never tied in to the nearby treatment plant.
In the meantime, the existing three Myers Avenue wells are pumping at capacity, and the systems two other major water sources are also nearing their limit. Earlier this year, the water department instituted a freeze on new hook up applications while it studies it’s supply and demand figures.
A new $2.2 million state grant will pay to connect and activate the fourth Myers Avenue well, adding 160,000 gallons of daily capacity to the dual-town system.
The additional capacity will be split between the two towns, with Abington and Rockland each receiving 80,000 gallons of additional water per day.
The water department is seeking other state and federal funding opportunities to pay for permanent upgrades needed to remove potentially harmful contaminants known as PFAS from the water supply.
The expansion grant comes from the state’s MassWorks program fund, which pays for local infrastructure projects that help unlock economic development.
LaPointe said this was the third year the water works applied for the grant. The work involves “activating” the well, or tying it into the nearby treatment facility, testing it, among other steps. The grant will also cover the cost of building a clear well underneath the existing treatment plant parking lot. Clear wells serve as storage tanks to help meet spikes in demand.
The work is expected to start next year, LaPointe said.
Lt. Gov. Karen Polito was at Rockland Town Hall Tuesday on behalf of the Baker Administration to announce the grant, as well as a number of grants for communities cleaning up brownfield sites.
“This MassWorks award will create much needed housing in the community and an increase in both jobs and economic activity,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a press release. “Congratulations to Abington-Rockland Joint Water Works for receiving this award and their collaborative efforts to play a role in addressing our housing crisis.”
The release said the additional water capacity “is enough water to support 12 proposed private developments consisting of workforce and multi-family housing, low-income senior housing, and a range of retail, commercial, and mixed-use developments in both towns.”
Both LaPointe and Town Manager Scott Lambiase said the water isn’t earmarked for any specific projects, but would be available in general as new projects apply.
The water works gets water from three main sources: Little Sandy Pond in Pembroke, a reservoir off Hingham Street in Rockland, and the Myers Avenue wellfield.
The Pembroke and Rockland reservoirs are part of the South Coastal watershed, meaning all water bodies in that area eventually run off into Massachusetts Bay. The Myers Avenue wellfield is part of the Taunton River Watershed, which drains into Narragansett Bay. Because the water sources are in two different watersheds, the water department holds two separate withdrawal permits from the Department of Environmental Protection. These withdrawal permits set caps on how much water departments can take out of the ground without causing ecological damage.
LaPointe said the withdrawal permits for the Pembroke and Rockland reservoirs are maxed out. However the Myers Avenue facility is permitted for an average of .46 million gallons per day and the department has only been pumping out about .25 million gallons per day. The upcoming expansion would bump that number up but still keep it under that cap, meaning the department doesn’t have to go through an extensive state repermitting process.
The grant would not pay for upgrades needed to filter out filter out a group of contaminants known as PFAS, or forever chemicals because they never fully break down. Longterm exposure to PFAS has been increasingly linked to serious health problems.
The water department has been employing a number of temporary solutions to reduce PFAS levels In accordance with new state mandates. LaPointe said a new carbon-based filtration system at the Myers Avenue plant has shown very positive results in removing PFAS from the water. Permanent fixes at the Hingham Street treatment plant and Myers Avenue plant could cost upwards of $26 million dollars, however, LaPointe said. PFAS is not currently detected in Little Sandy Pond.
The new $1.1 trillion federal infrastructure bill contains $50 billion dollars to help improve water systems. The Massachusetts House of Representatives recently approved $100 million dollars in federal stimulus money for local water and sewer projects; the Senate has not yet voted on the bill.