New town well should be running by May

With $150,000 budget
Fri, 02/03/2017 - 12:30pm

“We are getting a brand new piece of infrastructure. We’re not getting a Band-Aid. This is brand new, and it should last for a very long time.” 

Water Company Superintendent John Breunig made those remarks to the Sewer and Water Commission boards regarding the installation of a new well, designated as No. 5A, on the company’s property. The new well is being installed beside the old well No. 5, which failed and will be decommissioned. Breunig said the new well will be his “top priority” until the work is completed. 

The Water Company’s goal is to have the well installed and up and running by May, to accommodate the island’s busy summer season, its peak water usage period, said Breunig. Once installed it will be one of three production wells that services Block Island’s commercial district.

The Sewer and Water Commission voted unanimously to approve funding the project to the tune of $150,000 at its Jan. 25 meeting. Commission Chair Brad Marthens made the motion, stating that: “I’m going to put forth a motion to release emergency funds from the Water District reserve for the engineering and construction costs associated with the replacement and decommissioning of well No. 5 in the amount not to exceed $150,000.”

Marthens also noted a part two: “to authorize the Water Superintendent, in consultation with the engineer, Jim Geremia, to develop a request for bids for construction, and the decommissioning of well No. 5…after receiving a variance and approval from the Rhode Island Department of Health (Office of Drinking Water Quality).”

Breunig said during the meeting that it was determined by the DOH that a variance needs to be obtained because the Water Company does not have control of the 400-foot radius necessary for a replacement of well No. 5. “I sent out a letter (on Jan. 9) to all of the landowners in the 400-foot radius to give them information about well No. 5,” he said. “If none of the property owners object within 30 days, then DOH can grant the variance.”  

“Jim Geremia and I have been working on a well application for DOH, and the bid document, so we are ready for the next step in the process,” said Breunig. “We have also been working on cost estimates for the construction and approval of the new well.”

“If we can do anything to keep the cost below the budgeted amount, that is the goal,” said Marthens.

Breunig told The Block Island Times that the Water Company is “proposing to the DOH that the new well be drilled two to five feet away from the original well, No. 5, essentially replacing it. The old well will be decommissioned by pouring bentonite down the well; the top will be cut below grade and sealed with a welded cap.”

“Once we are granted the variance, and DOH approves the bid documents, we will publicly advertise the bid and then award a contract,” added Breunig. “Our timeline is to award the contract at the monthly meeting in March. Construction can then commence and hopefully be completed by the end of May, and the new well can get final approval for drinking water by the summer season. DOH has been responsive so far and I hope this is a solid timeline.”

In his monthly operations report for December of 2016, Breunig said the Water Company showed an increase in water production by 5.93 percent over Dec. of 2015. “Metered flow was up 57,000 gallons over last December.”

“We experienced anomalous flows starting on Dec. 17 after a thaw,” noted Breunig. “Water Company staff performed a meter reading to determine the issue. The main issue was a burst outdoor shower on Old Town Road. The owner was contacted and the water to the outdoor shower was shut off. We also found three other leaks, and were able to notify property owners.”

Breunig said he was “continuing to move forward with the Water Company’s Geographical Information System upgrades. I’m happy where this is going.” Breunig noted that the final goal of the upgrades is to be able to “collect GIS data in the field in real time, with a tablet or smartphone to manage and record information,” including photographs of installs, repairs, standpipes, valve positions, maintenance records and operation notes.   

“The goal for implementation is March, when we start completing seasonal turn-ons,” added Breunig.

As for the Sewer District, Wastewater Treatment Facility Superintendent Chris Blane said during his operations report for Dec. of 2016 that “cold weather preparations have been completed.” He informed the Commission that the plant’s “flow decreased” in December, “which is unusual because the Water Company’s production increased. It was a 13 percent decrease from Dec. of 2015.”

“I’ve been tracking this, and I believe that this could be due to the repairing of that manhole by the Yellow Kittens (on Corn Neck Road),” noted Blane,” because the monthly decreases have been dropping steadily.”   

Blane told The Times the reason for the decrease is that water running into that manhole has ceased due to repairs. “Since we fixed groundwater infiltration in that manhole the (sewage) flow has been down 10 to 12 percent each month. It’s dropped dramatically. And the Water Company’s flow is only up slightly — three or four percent. Not a significant amount.” 

“Our yearly flow for 2016 was 40,246,000 gallons,” Blane reported to the Commission. “That’s a 4.8 percent increase from 2015.” Blane said that the increase is something that he will be monitoring moving forward. “We’ll keep our eye on it,” he said.

The Sewer and Water Commission welcomed Terri Chmiel and Kara Stinnett (alternate) to the Commission. Chmiel moved from an alternate position to Commissioner, while Stinnett is new to the Commission.

The next Sewer and Water Commission meeting is Monday, Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. at Town Hall.