Pittsfield: $69 Million Worth of Water Upgrades Coming Next
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — While much of the talk recently has been on a $74 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant, upgrades to the water system are following closely behind.
Doug Gove, a consultant with Aecom, reported to the City Council's Public Works subcommittee Monday evening that in the next seven years the water system will need $69 million worth of repairs.
However, Gove also said the city could try to stagger out the repairs over time to ease the financial burden.
Gove said the only upgrade currently required is to repaint the water tank on Lebanon Avenue. However, to do so, the city would need to install another tank near Berkshire Community College. Other than that, the city has an array of projects it will need to do for the system as it is dated.
"In an ideal world, everything would be done at once. But this isn't an ideal world. It has to be affordable," Gove said.
Gove is suggesting the city take on the repainting project to comply with a Department of Environmental Protection order and then craft a conceptual plan for the rest of the upgrades.
From there, he'd suggest prioritizing the items that minimize risk. For example, the distribution system pulls directly from the plants and he is suggesting building new storage tanks for treated water to avert the possibility of a water main break from distributing the water system, and ultimately leading to a permit violation.
That necessarily wouldn't be what DEP would have as a second priority. But, if the city has a long-term plan for the upgrades, Gove believes DEP will work with the city.
The other repairs pending include work on the Upper Sackett dam and the Cleveland Reservoir diversion dams, both of which have been designed and with the latter currently going through permitting. The Sandwash, Lower Ashley, and the Cleveland dams are all in "fair condition" but will need work over time.
The city's water pipes are also aging, he said, and replacing all of those could cost around $8 million per year in maintenance. The distribution system has pressure and fire flow deficiencies, a lack of power in the pump stations, and a lack of overall storage. Further, he said only 25 percent of the city's households and businesses are on water meters, a number DEP would like to be closer to 100.
The two plants -- Cleveland and Ashley -- were both built in 1985. The systems have variations in water quality, there isn't enough storage, and the plants lack automation and treated water storage. The equipment at the plants is "reaching the end of its useful life" and spare parts are often no longer available.
"There are a lot of moving parts and as those parts are getting old, the city is doing a lot of maintenance on those parts and replacement is hard to come by," Gove said.
Gove says the equipment should be replaced from the first generation Krofta sand float technology to the latest third generation. But, before doing so, Gove suggests a pilot period of the equipment at the Ashley plant.
At the Cleveland plant, there is a lack of space to put a new tank for treated water, so a process of determining where to put one would need to be done.
When all is said and done, Gove said there is $2 million worth of water source projects, $11 million in the distribution center, $35 million at Cleveland, and $21 million at Ashley all pending.
"The Pittsfield water system is strong, it has good quality, but it is aging," Gove said.
Gove said since the city is currently in compliance, the projects are not at the same level as the wastewater treatment center. But, the projects should be of a high priority because DEP is currently with the understanding that these upgrades are coming so it has been somewhat lenient with its demands.
"They are understanding that there is a capital improvement plan out there showing the whole plant will be upgraded in the next seven years," he said. "Right now, everything has been addressed with the water plant. What you are dealing with now is aging equipment and vulnerabilities."
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell pressed on the issue of timing it, specifically asking how to push the project out further. He said he'd like to be able to structure the upgrades at both in a way that some of the earlier projects can get paid off before new ones come on.
"To be asking $69 million on this end and what has been proposed on the other end is absolutely going to bury the residents," Connell said.
Gove said in the most immediate future, $5 million can get the city in compliance with the administrative order and start mitigating the risks should the equipment break down. Gove said the city might be able to push out the bigger ticket items for another 10 to 15 years, provided it keeps up with maintenance and takes on some of the other projects.
"If you want to spread this out for 20 years, then you need to know what this will look like in 20 years. So you need to plan it out," Gove said, emphasizing the need to do the conceptual planning early so that each portion of the entire project all links back to the end goal.
Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Simonelli isn't happy with the cost overall. He was among the councilors to press Gove on ways to save money or find alternative ways to pay for it.
"The taxpayers are at home watching this saying there is no way it would be affordable," Simonelli said. "The city doesn't have any money."
Tags: capital projects, drinking water,
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