$12.5 million Wareham water treatment plant plans take shape

Sep 27, 2017

An engineering firm tasked with building Wareham’s first water treatment plant is nearly done designing a $12.5 million facility that will deliver “crystal clear” tap water, according to Wareham Water Department Superintendent Andrew Reid.

Once completed the 7,921-square-foot-plant will treat all water pumped from the Wareham Fire District’s well fields off Maple Springs Road. The project will not affect Onset residents whose water infrastructure is overseen by the Onset Fire District, a separate entity.

Reid said the district’s engineering firm, Kleinfelder, has plans 90 percent complete at this point.

The project was approved by voters last April during the Wareham Fire District’s Annual Meeting. Reid said the plant was proposed to address high amounts of iron and manganese in the drinking water supply.

Water officials said the problem of iron, which causes tap water to become a rusty color, is mostly cosmetic.

High levels of manganese, on the other hand, is known to cause health issues, including neurological problems. The manganese issue prompted a warning from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to the district – to either bring those levels down or face state intervention.

Currently, Wareham water is treated using chlorine and lime, which improves taste, but does not address the high mineral levels, said Reid.

The new plant will be equipped with technology that lowers mineral levels and reduces the need for chlorine, which generates complaints from users, said Reid.

“The water will be crystal clear because of this plant,” said Reid. “It will be more like the water that came out of the tap when people were kids.”

Design plans should be completed by late December “if all goes well,” said Reid. The plant is projected to start operating by 2020. Reid noted that the water quality issues may persist for a year after the plant is online while the system becomes flush with treated water.

The new plant will be funded with a low interest loan from the state, to be paid back over 20 years. The facility will increase water bills for customers. The average bill, which is between $500 and $600 annually, is expected to increase $144.

At the April, voters put on a hold a request that would have added a $5.5 million filtration system to the plant.

According to Reid, the $5.5 million system was needed to remove pesticides, fuel additives and other chemicals from the water supply. Reid said low levels of a variety of chemicals have been detected at least three times over the past 15 years by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Many voters disputed the need for the additional treatment system without more information, questioning if the district should foot the bill for pesticides that are likely being leached into the water supply due to agricultural activities, such as cranberry growing.

Voters sent that to further study and may revisit it at the next annual meeting in the spring.