Wilton seeks secondary water source

Water Commissioners Tom Schultz and Dan Hastings discuss the possible interconnection of Wilton and Milford water systems in a Water Commission meeting at the Town Hall on Thursday.

(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

Water Commissioners Tom Schultz and Dan Hastings discuss the possible interconnection of Wilton and Milford water systems in a Water Commission meeting at the Town Hall on Thursday. (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

WILTON — The Wilton Water Commission is seeking federal aid to move forward with longtime plans to connect the town’s water supply with the one in Milford in order to create a back-up water supply for both towns. Should the town’s latest grant application be accepted, Wilton residents could see a request for some additional funds for the project on the ballot this year. The town has currently set aside $21,336 in a capital reserve account to fund the project — a long way from the total $2.95 million needed to complete it.

This isn’t the first time the town has applied for state funds for the project. In the past five years, the Water and Sewer Commission has applied multiple times to the Department of Environmental Safety for grants to defer costs, but have not received any thus far, said Water Commission Chair Jim Tuttle at a Water and Sewer Commission meeting on Thursday.

The most recent grant application was for the DES’s System Interconnection and Groundwater Investigation Grant for up to $702,502. These grants reimburse 25 percent of eligible costs for interconnecting public water systems.

If the grant is awarded, it is not out of the realm of possibility for the Water Commission to sponsor a warrant article in the coming year to further fund the capital reserve account for the project. Currently, the commission has $21,336 in capital reserve for it.

The connection between the two towns could be accomplished in several ways. The easiest would be to run a connection pipe between Milford and Wilton down the Route 101 corridor and build a pump station to service it. The $2.95 million cost would cover both the installation of the pipeline and the pump station.

Connecting the water supplies would have a side benefit of being able to serve more customers in Milford, Water Commissioner Tom Schultz said at the Water Commission meeting Thursday . Wilton’s municipal water supply currently serves between 20 and 25 Milford residents, and this would be an opportunity to expand that number. But Schultz said the intent of the pipe would first and foremost be to create a back up system for both towns. Any additional customers for Wilton’s water would simply be a bonus.

The project was first brought to the table in 2007, when the Wilton Water and Sewer Commissions received the results of a Mutual Aid Study done by Nashua Regional Planning Commission. Connecting the Milford and Wilton water system would provide a fail safe system for both towns in the event of system failure or water contamination in either town, according to the study.

Wilton already has a redundant system, explained Tuttle, with two separate wells: the Abbott and Everet Production Wells. But both wells draw from the same aquifer, and if the water became contaminated both wells would be affected, and the town only has enough storage for about two to three days of water.

During a Select Board meeting on Aug. 20, former Water Commission Chair Bob Duquette told the Select Board that in order to move forward with the interconnection in the coming year, there would have to be funds approved in March, according to the minutes of the meeting. He also suggested the funds could be raised through a 20-year loan.

Select Board Chair Steve McDonough asked that the Water and Sewer Commission examine other options for another water source, such as drilling a third well, according to the Aug. 20 minutes.

The town does have a possible site for a third well, according to Tuttle, but the well would draw from the same aquifer, which still leaves the town vulnerable to water shortages if there were aquifer contamination. Route 31 runs over the aquifer and should a accident lead to oil contamination, the town would only have two days worth of water stored, Tuttle said.

“The amount of water we have in Wilton is not the issue,” Tuttle said. “We’re only tapping 30 percent of the yield of our current two wells. We have plenty of water. The problem is how much we can store and distribute, because of the size of our tank and pipes.”

The average cost of drilling a production water well is around $1 million, according to Tuttle.

The Water and Sewer Commissions meet on the last Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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