Water and Sewer numbers come in strong for August

Thu, 09/24/2020 - 6:30pm
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The good news coming out of the Water and Sewer Commissions meeting on Monday, Sept. 21, is that billings for the month of August came in far better than anyone had predicted.

Assistant Finance Director Mona Helterline provided the numbers. The Water Department billed just 14 percent less than it had in 2019. The Sewer Company billed 18 percent less than it had in August of 2019.

“All in all, happy to say that September will be another telling month,” said Helterline. “I hope the numbers stay strong.”

Helterline said that both departments will be billing over-usage penalties in September, as well.

“I was surprised to see the flow as close as it was to the prior year,” said Wastewater Treatment Plant Supt. Dylan Chase. “We didn’t have those high peaks on the weekends, however much of the week was pretty much the same as the previous year.”

Chase said that “very little rainfall combined with a good amount of sun made for our revenue to be in a better place.”

The bulk of the conversation at the meeting was about two projects and a special allocation for water use at the yet-to-be-built employee housing project for The Block Island Beach House hotel. The two projects include a new pump for one of the town’s wells and a private water main for residences in Ebbett’s Hollow and Spallone Drive.

The housing that will be built for the employees of The Block Island Beach House, called the Grove, is expected to use almost 7,000 gallons of water every day during the summer season. Because of that amount of usage, the project needed a vote by the members of the New Shoreham Water Commission to allow that special allocation. (Any usage exceeding 2,000 gallons a day must be approved.) Since the developers also missed a deadline to file the application asking for that allocation, the Commission waived the application process until a special meeting with the commission and the Town Council on Oct. 19.

The employee housing will be located on a parcel behind the Gables where the old printing shop was located. (Plat 6, lots 123 and 131).

The owners have “requested a large allocation of 6,830 gallons a day,” said Water Company Supt. John Breunig. “Anything over 2,000 per day triggers some different requirements for rules and regulations and town ordinances. This is not something we deal with very often. In my 15 years here we’ve never had this large of an allocation.”

Breunig said that Town Engineer Jim Geremia, “and Dylan and I are fine with the gallonage that they are proposing.”

“What do we have on the island that’s comparable, that uses 6,000 gallons a day?” asked member Sandra Finizia.

“Nothing,” said Sewer Commission Chair Pete McNerney, but Breunig felt that the Eureka on High Street, or The National and Spring House Hotels might use comparable amounts.

“You’re talking a 50 person staff housing project,” said member Brad Marthens.

“This is the first time something of this magnitude has come in since the 1980s, from what I remember,” said Geremia. He said that the developers put together a review of what they felt their water usage would be, which factored in that each bed in the building would require 100 gallons of water a day.

“We went through the calculations based on standard water rates,” said Geremia. “Are they going to use that much? I don’t know, but we’re set on 100 gallons per bed.” He said the three washing machines would use up to 500 gallons of water a day.

The other project the developers have proposed is an annex hotel building called the Gables, also on Dodge Street, that will have a swimming pool requiring perhaps as much as 40,000 gallons to fill. While Breunig said the pool won’t be filled during the peak summer months, a certain allocation of water will be provided daily to refill the pool due to evaporation. Breunig said that was not part of the discussion regarding the employee housing project.

“I’m not really concerned about the pool but it won’t be filled in July or August,” said Breunig.

The Water Commission approved the water allocation for the project and to defer the application process until the joint meeting with the Town Council in October.

The Water Commission also approved a motion that will allow Breunig to issue a bid for contractors to analyze the condition of town well number six, which needs a new pump and is currently offline. There won’t be any impact to the town’s water supply, said Breunig, but “we need to change the pump” and he said he would also like to drop a camera down into the well to analyze its condition, as well as brush it and acid wash the well to clean it up.

When McNerney asked how old the well was, and with Breunig saying it was installed sometime in the 1970s, McNerney was concerned that the well itself was near the end of its working life and might need more than just a pump.

“You’re going to discover that the well is at the end of its useful life,” said McNerney. “Is the plan going to include the possibility of putting a new well in to replace it?”

Breunig said it was “a great question,” but also said that so far there was no indication that the well itself had deteriorated to that point, “which gives me hope that it still has some time left. I don’t disagree with you, Pete, but a new well is a whole other ball of wax.”

That said, McNerney said to take a look at the condition of the well, but he didn’t think too much should be spent on cleaning it up.

“Let’s assess the situation. I think Pete’s right, but you need this well pump for the upcoming season,” said Geremia. The motion to put out a bid for a contractor to install a new well pump and to analyze the condition of the well was approved.

The Water Commission also approved replacing a 2-inch water main line with a 4-inch line to accommodate new users in the Ebbett’s Hollow and Spallone Drive area off High Street. That project can dovetail with the planned High Street/Payne Road water main replacement project planned for next Spring. Geremia said he hoped to have a contractor for that $2.3 million project by October.

Covid-19 sewage testing

Supt. Chase said that three tests conducted between Aug. 17 and Sept. 14 all had the same results: no detection of Covid-19 in the tested samples.

Chase said he will continue the tests.

“I have enough tests to scale back and test monthly,” he said.