Main town water line needs replacing

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 6:15pm
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The members of the Water Commission this week approved spending up to $21,715 to create a design plan and specifications for the replacement of 3,700 feet of a decaying asbestos concrete water main that services most of the Water Company’s customer base and the downtown area.

After that, Water Company Supt. John Breunig told members of the commission, there will be a larger issue to face: how to pay for the approximately $2 million project without incurring too much debt service for the small water company.

In a memo to the town dated July 26, 2019, Breunig wrote that the condition of the pipe was discovered when it was excavated after a water leak was found. Although the water main was repaired, Breunig wrote that “it changed the dynamic of the piping… there are sure to be more failures in the future,” adding that “a break 240 feet upstream of this failure would result in a service disruption of most of the distribution system (all of town).”

In a memo to the commissioners, Breunig said that funding sources for the project, particularly in the area of grants, are practically non-existent, and that a new funding source could come from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. He did not think that ratepayers could bear the burden alone.

“The small and seasonal rate base will have difficulty funding any large capital project by themselves without large rate increases,” Breunig wrote in his memo. “Our current annual debt service is about $105,000; the 10-inch main replacement could add about $140,000 annually.”

Breunig concluded his memo by saying, “It is my recommendation that the Water Company explore other funding sources to lower the burden on the ratepayers for the 10-inch Payne Road/High Street Main Replacement Project.”

The problems with the water main stemmed from an incident on July 20. “Water was observed by BIWC staff bubbling out of the ground on High Street at the driveway… between High View Lane and Ebbett’s Hollow… The water main was isolated from Ebbett’s Hollow to the Eureka Hotel affecting six residences.”

A leaking collar joint was discovered, but what was also discovered was that the asbestos concrete pipe was deteriorating. “The bottom of the outside of AC main had a ‘papier maché’ consistency, easily coming apart when rubbed by hand.” Breunig further added that “cross-sectional pictures of the main showed the outside of the pipe has degraded, the inside of the pipe was good.”

The July 26 memo concluded by saying, “This is a transmission pipe from the treatment plant to the town, with no bypass and a high consequence of failure. This pipe should be replaced before another failure, which is now imminent. If we can secure funding for this project, I would like to commence construction in the Fall of 2020.”

Water Commission Chair Brad Marthens suggested to Breunig that he schedule an agenda item for an upcoming Town Council meeting to discuss the project and possible ideas about funding.

In other news from the Water and Sewer Commission meeting on Monday, Aug. 19, it was announced that member Kara Stinnett had submitted her resignation. “I wish I could find the time and continue but right now I cannot,” Stinnett said in a letter dated Aug. 1. “I have also asked around to see if anyone would be interested. If I hear from anyone or think of anyone I will pass them along.”

Breunig said he had a possible candidate in mind.