Tuesday, October 27, 2020

White Pond as Water Supply

For more than 100 years, Maynard sourced water from White Pond, which is located on the Stow/Hudson border, south of Lake Boon. Water was chlorine-treated pond-side, then piped about three miles to a pumphouse located on Winter Street – now part of the Department of Public Works facility – from which it was pumped into an open-topped tank atop Summer Hill, the highest point in Maynard. Addition of well-sourced water to the supply started in 1963. The town switched to getting all of its water from wells in 1999 after federal water treatment standards for surface water sourcing were made more rigorous. Maynard is considering reviving White Pond as a water supply. A 2019 report estimated the cost of building a water treatment plant and installing miles of new pipe at about $30 million dollars. (A 2011 report to the town had estimated the cost as half of that.)

Two water tanks atop Summer Hill. The original,
1888 tank (left) since capped. Courtesy Maynard
Historical Society. Click to enlarge.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts approved Act Number 407 on May 25, 1888 to provide Maynard with water from White Pond. The Act included a right to construct and maintain a pipeline across the intervening land in Stow. The Act concluded with a section specifying that an 1880 Act authorizing White Pond water rights to the Town of Marlborough was by this Act repealed.

Maynard, population 2,500, approved construction of a water system in 1888. It became operative in 1889 with just over 7,500 feet of iron pipe and 57 fire hydrants. Subsequent annual reports mention pipe and hydrants being added as the town grew. The pipe from White Pond to Maynard was replaced in 1942. A multi-year drought in the 1960s forced Maynard to start adding wells to the system. Currently, Maynard has seven wells that deliver acceptable quantities and qualities of water (albeit with demineralization facilities to remove water-discoloring iron and manganese). These include clusters of deep, bedrock wells on the north side of town, operative as of 2000, and shallow, aquifer wells on the southeast side. Collectively, the wells can achieve Maynard’s allowable usage of 1.09 million gallons per day (gpd), which is well above average daily demand, or even seasonal maximal demand.

So, what’s the problem? Lack of redundancy. If a major well fails, or a water treatment plant needs more than the usual maintenance, Maynard does not have reserve capacity. Running the remaining wells at full speed would pull lower quality water into the system, thereby increasing wear-and-tear on the treatment plants. Very short-term, keeping the two water tanks atop Summer Hill full helps. The every-year, Level 1 restriction on daytime yard watering from May through September slows daytime demand while allowing the tanks to be topped at night as a buffer for the next day.

Maynard also needs to work on its leakage problem. Old pipes leak, and at times, break. Lost water is estimated by what is being produced minus what is measured (and paid for) at water meters. Over the past ten years, loss has decreased from more than 20 percent to less than 15 percent, but the state calls for municipalities to be under 10 percent. More upgrading is needed.

Why not just dig more wells? Because through the years, Maynard drilled more than 200 test wells to get to the current seven working wells. Adding new wells, even at the most promising untapped sites, may not be cost effective. As Maynard’s population and water demand gradually increase, there will be a time for serious consideration to reactivating White Pond. The pond could in theory provide 0.72 million gallons per day.       

Water in, water out? Whereas the Town of Maynard began operating a water system in 1888, efforts to create a town-wide sewer system did not reach fruition until forty years later. An exception was the construction of Presidential Village by the American Woolen Company in 1902-03, as the first part of town to be connected to a sewer system. Wastewater was pumped to a wastewater facility in an area now owned by the Rod and Gun Club. For the rest of the town, wastewater went to cesspools or septic tanks with leach fields. Inadequate and failed systems meant near-raw sewage chronically seeping into the Assabet River.

The wastewater treatment 
facility is owned by Maynard
but operated by VEOLIA.  
In 1909, the State Board of Health ordered the woolen mill to stop polluting the river, but did not address residential wastewater. In 1914-15 the town came up with a plan, approved by the state, but World War I interfered with implementation. Finally, in 1929, a wastewater treatment plant was constructed at the Maynard:Acton border. Over years, more and more of Maynard was connected. Still, ten years later, only 812 homes were hooked up, and the plant was processing an average of only 181,200 gallons per day. By 1961 the town was providing 650,000 gpd of clean water and sending 500,000 gpd of wastewater to the Maynard Wastewater Treatment Facility. Today, the facility is designed to treat an average of 1.45 million gpd, with the discharge meeting the government’s standards for clean water. Despite a large reserve treatment capacity, Maynard has in the past declined proposals from Stow and Acton to accept payment for piping their poop to its plant.

What was being processed 60 years ago was below today’s standards, so discharged phosphorus and nitrogen caused algae blooms and decaying vegetation. The stretch of river backed up by the Powder Mill Dam was described in a 1982 book as “…the river smell is nauseating, reeking like an unpumped-out campground outhouse times ten.” While discharges are much improved, phosphorus and nitrogen in the sediments impounded upstream of the dams (Ben Smith and Powder Mill) still promote algae and duckweed growth, albeit less than in the past.

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