Were Hudson Selectmen Thirsty after their Jan. 5 Meeting?
January 22, 2016
by Len Lathrop
Several of the Hudson Selectmen’s recent conclaves have included discussion about the current town-owned water utility. As they have opened the tap about the current state of the water system questions arise. Should more supply of water be sought and some commercial expansion of the system be done?
On Tuesday, first on the agenda was an application for a new Dunkin’ Donuts at the corner of Derry Road and Robinson Road. While there is municipal water in the general area, the most economic way to connect for the new building, which has attached stores to the doughnut shop, is to extend the line under Route 102 and then to the Brady Road intersection with Robinson Road. Coming from near the intersection of West and Derry, a tunnel will be drilled through the rock the road sits on, the boring will be lined with a plastic sleeve, and then one section of pipe will be passed under the road. Several selectmen had issues with the process and had questions about the pipe under the street. The project had been tabled at an earlier meeting so that the Hudson town engineer could get some questions answered.
While the builder would pay for this project, it becomes part of the water utility and the responsibility of the utility once it is completed and accepted by the town. If the pipe were to develop a leak, the repair would mean pulling the single section of pipe from under Route 102 and either repairing it or replacing it. The section of pipe needed for the tunnel carries a cost of $9,000, a cost the selectmen had a problem being responsible for if something went wrong. To alleviate the concern, the builder offered to give the town $15,000 to be held in case of a problem in the future.
As Route 102 is a state road, state approval was needed for this type of construction and has been granted by the NH Department of Transportation. Selectmen voted to approve this project.
The next agenda item also related to Brady Drive. On top of the hill is Hilltop Self-Storage, who will tie into the new water line at the junction of Brady and Robinson. That project also was approved.
The primary focus of this workshop meeting was to establish a dialogue with the Pennichuck Water Service Company. Now if you said who, that requires some explanation. Let’s draw a word picture.
Yes, Hudson does own its water system; the town purchased it from the Consumers NH water company in 1998. The purchase price was $27.5 million, secured by a bond. With refinancing the bond, Hudson has 12 years to pay off that obligation. What Hudson bought was three wells that supply the water to Hudson that are named Dame, Ducharme, and Weinstein. All three wells, which are located in Litchfield, are known as aquifers, or pools of water under the ground. The aquifers are filled by rainfall or water runoff from a higher location that seeps into the soil.
Recently, a second Weinstein well was drilled because the original well was beginning to show excessive wear and tear. The decision was made to re-drill a new well next to the original Weinstein as this would be the less expensive route to go. Currently, this new well is being tested and will apply to the state in the spring for pumping certification for gallons per day allowed.
Hudson also got all the pipes under the streets that provide water to the houses, the pumping station and water tanks that hold and regulated the water pressure in your home. The Hudson town engineer had advised the HLN in December that currently the wells are producing 1.55 million gallons of water per day, and the town is currently using 1.2 million gallons per day. Still waiting to understand Pennichuck’s relationship? It is threefold. All maintenance and repairs on the water system is done under contract with Pennichuck. This includes a system that electronically watches all the pump stations, the wells and the storage tanks 24/7 to be sure everything is working. Pennichuck reads your water meter and if a pipe breaks, their crews come out to fix the problem. Pennichuck’s licensed engineers and chemists also control the chemicals that go into the town’s water as is required by the state. Hudson pays Pennichuck about a half a million dollars every year for those 24-hour services, and by contract, Pennichuck owns 15 percent of the water that the Hudson wells produce.
Do you have a picture of why the selectmen wanted to meet the Pennichuck representatives? Town Engineer Elvis Dhima is the point person for interaction with Pennichuck and is in regular communication with them, but the selectmen had never, to Chairman Maddox’s recall, ever met with the Pennichuck team. It is a complicated relationship as there is one more twist. When Hudson can’t produce enough water from the wells for it needs, the town buys water from Pennichuck, which comes to us via the Nashua water pipe and under Veteran and Memorial bridges.
Hoping you have the picture, the meeting that night was cordial and everyone agreed that more communication was wanted.
As the selectmen knew in December, after a parlay with Dhima, that new well drilled next to the Weinstein was not tested to produce any more gallons per minute than the current Weinstein well that is wearing out. Dhima had advised selectmen that most of the decreased output is due to a drop in the water level in the aquifers from 14 feet below ground to 22 feet below ground.
Water is certainly going to be a topic for discussion in Hudson for quite some time. And here is one final point to ponder. When the Town of Hudson water utility has to purchase water from Pennichuck, the cost is roughly four times the cost of the water that the water utility can pump from the well it owns.