Blackstone breaks ground on new water filtration facility

Participating in the groundbreaking from left are Bruce Paterson, chairman of the Water and Sewer Commission; Tom Devlin, member of the Water and Sewer Commission; Town Administrator Dori Vecchio; Selectwoman Tanya Polak; Eric Eisner, a representative of state Rep. Mike Soter’s office; Robert Dubois, chairman of the Board of Selectmen; Selectman Ryan Chamberland; Bill Fredericks, a representative of state Sen. Ryan Fattman’s office; Public Works Supt. Jimmy Sullivan; Selectwoman Mary Bulso; John Parmentier, former member of the Water and Sewer Commission; and Samuel Kenney, project manager with Weston & Sampson.

BLACKSTONE – Town officials in Blackstone last week broke ground on a new, $8.5 million water filtration facility that is expected to result in cleaner water for residents.

The water filtration plant will be located behind the corrosion control facility on Elm Street. Members of the Board of Selectmen as well as the Water and Sewer Commission and project representatives gathered on Saturday, Oct. 16, to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new project.

“It’s something that we’ve worked on for many years. Should’ve been done many years ago,” Board of Selectman Chairman Robert Dubois said.

According to Samuel Kenney, a project manager for Weston & Sampson, conversations about the plant started around 2006 when the state began cracking down on limits for manganese in drinking water. The new facility will remove iron and manganese, both elements that Public Works Supt. Jimmy Sullivan said occur naturally in the town’s six wells along the Mill River. Iron and manganese are responsible for the signature rust-colored stains that have led to complaints from residents, he said.

Speaking during the event, Sullivan said the town’s water system was much smaller when he was first hired in 1980. At the time, there were fewer regulations around potential contaminants, and the state required less frequent water testing.

“We went from like eight water samples when I started, then they moved it up to 15. Now we do 40 a month,” he said.

In 2000, the town opened the Robert J. Dubois Corrosion Control Facility at 53 Elm St. to raise the pH level of the town’s drinking water and make it less corrosive to pipes. Sullivan said the corrosion control facility has led to fewer leaks in the water system, but the town still needed to address the iron and manganese.

“It’s been a long haul, but the town really needed it,” he said.

Though the filtration plant was initially projected to cost $5.5 million, upgrades and increases in material prices have since brought the expected cost to $8.5 million. Dubois said voters have approved funding for the project during two town meetings, first at an estimated cost of $6 million in 2019 and more recently at the $8.5 million estimate.

The project is funded primarily through a $6.2 million loan from the Massachusetts Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. Kenney said they expect about 13.2 percent of the loan to be forgiven, or a little more than $800,000.

For the remaining cost, Dubois said they haven’t yet identified a funding source, but he supports funding the project out of the capital improvements budget generated by the tax treaty with ANP Blackstone Energy Company.

“That’s something that will be dealt with as we go along,” he said.

According to Sullivan, residents will probably not notice an immediate change to their water. They should start to see improvements about two years after the new plant comes online, once the system gets completely flushed out, he said. The Blackstone water system serves about 2,900 customers, or 85 percent of the properties in town.

The project is expected to take about 18 months. D&C Construction out of Rockland, Mass., is completing the work.

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