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Well main replacement considered

Date: 6/1/2011

June 1, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WEST SPRINGFIELD —"There's a significant lack of knowledge as to where our water comes from," Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Jack Dowd told Reminder Publications. "If you ask nine out of 10 residents, they would say Bear Hole [Reservoir]."

Though Bear Hole is, in Dowd's words, "a beautiful watershed," the antiquated facility can only produce about 1 million gallons of water a day, not nearly enough to quench the thirst of a growing West Springfield.

Since 1938, Dowd said, West Springfield has drawn the majority of its water from the Southwick well fields through a transmission line that traverses Westfield and Agawam. However, at 70 years old, that pipe is showing its age and needs to be replaced.

"It sees daylight in some places," Dowd said. "It's broken twice and it isn't accessible for repairs; there are places where it is really remote."

On May 16, the Town Council conducted a public hearing on the replacement of the Southwick well field transmission main as part of a loan authorization for that project and select street and sidewalk repairs.

The total cost of the bond was listed at $12.7 million, with approximately $10.6 million of the monies going toward the transmission main project.

David G. Goncalves, project manager for Tighe & Bond Engineering and Consulting Services, gave a presentation to the council about the proposed transmission replacement, noting that "60 percent of the town" gets its water from the Southwick well field.

"It's undersized," Goncalves said of the 16-inch pipe, adding that the town is permitted to draw 7.1 million gallons per day from the Southwick field, but it can only draw 5.2 million gallons using the current transmission line.

"The town is not getting full value [for its permit] at this time," Goncalves pointed out.

Dowd said he made the first replacement request in 2007, but to date the town has elected not to act on the project.

"The town has been in a dialogue about the project since 1955, so clearly we have discussed it enough," Dowd added.

Goncalves advocated for upgrading the size of the transmission pipe from 16 to 20 inches, "allowing for the full capacity of the wellhead," as well as upgrading the equipment at two pumping stations. This change, he noted, would allow the DPW to reduce or eliminate the need to draw water from Bear Hole.

Goncalves noted in his presentation that there is also some urgency in bonding the project this year, as a portion of the transmission main follows Route 187, which is due to be reconstructed by the state.

"It is close to going out to bid, Dowd said. "The issue is that 5,000 feet of our water main will be placed in this road."

Goncalves told the council that if the main is not replaced before or during the road reconstruction, the town would be forced to wait "five years before it can get in" and make any repairs to or replacement of the main.

Dowd also said this is an opportune time to undertake the main replacement project for several reasons: construction costs for town projects have been coming in approximately 20 percent below estimates; there is the opportunity to apply for a 2 percent state loan and an additional matching state grant of up to 15 percent "that will just be forgiven."

He said the town's loan applications had been "received favorably" for the past three years, but he could not guarantee that would happen in the future. He also said the amount of the forgivable grant would be determined by the number of towns applying for the monies.

"It's a good time to do this, despite the economy and the naysayers," Dowd said.

He added that he expects a favorable result when the council takes the issue up again at its June 6 meeting.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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