Fiorentini Calls for Drawing Water From Merrimack River

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

The ongoing drought conditions and the city’s ability “to provide uninterrupted water service and fire protection in the event of a catastrophic event,” brings talk of creating a “long-term water master plan,” among other steps, to the forefront of Tuesday’s Haverhill City Council meeting.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini is scheduled to address the council on “the historic water drought and long-term water needs,” including proposed use of wells along the Merrimack River as a backup water source. In his latest “Minute with The Mayor” message, Fiorentini did not call for any immediate, mandatory outdoor water ban. However, he said most residents are complying with his voluntary water conservation requests but, in the long term, no one wants to go through tighter restrictions.

“The last drought we had, in 1990, lasted for two to three years. If this drought continues, even these measures aren’t going to be enough. We’ll have to impose mandatory restrictions instead of voluntary ones. Those restrictions will have to be ramped up and up and up,” Fiorentini said.

He added a water master plan needs “the same foresight” to plan for the future, as it did 100 years ago in purchasing land around Kenoza and other sources for water protection.

“How can we best conserve water for the future. What types of development can we put in – called ‘low-impact development’ – so that we put more groundwater into the ground so that we need less water. No matter what we do, we’re going to need water from the Merrimack,” Fiorentini said.

Fiorentini pointed out the city began exploring alternatives including “test” ground wells along the Merrimack seven years ago. He explained a plan to connect such wells directly to the water treatment plant at Kenoza Lake would not impact the water quality there.

“The difference is that wells dug near the river are going to have a filtering effect. Almost all the communities around us, including Methuen and Lawrence and Lowell, have drawn their water from the Merrimack River for decades without any problems whatsoever. We need to move forward to do that so that our citizens will always have enough water,” Fiorerntini added.

In other water-related matters, the council is expected to place on file a proposed $3 million dollar loan order, for a new, parallel water transmission mains between the water treatment plant on Amesbury Road to Kenoza Avenue and Humphrey Street, near Newton Road. The city faces a Sept. 30 deadline for its approval to remain eligible for a low-interest loan through the state’s Clean Water Trust revolving fund, according to Deputy Public Works Director Robert E. Ward. The project, recommended in a 2010 water system master plan, would be the first phase in transmission network improvements.

“We expect to bid and award the construction contract by the spring of 2017 with construction to start July, 2017,” Ward wrote to councilors. “Construction is anticipated to be complete in July, 2018.”

According to documents, an existing 36-inch transmission main, is “the only feed to the distribution system, including Gale Hill water storage tank” and “puts the majority of the city at risk” in providing water service and fire protection in the event of a water main break along the segment or “other emergency.” The water distribution network, with deficiencies identified in 2010, include older 20-inch mains dating back to the 1890s.

To fund it and an approved treatment plant upgrade project, a five-year revenue forecast document projects water user rates would increase annually between 11.2 percent and 12.2 percent, from the current $2.78 per hundred square feet, to $4.32 per hundred square feet during the year that begins July 1, 2020.

3 thoughts on “Fiorentini Calls for Drawing Water From Merrimack River

  1. A few years ago, Jimmy Taxes rejected suggestions that the city become more PRO active and start researching ways to utilize the Merrimack in this fashion – but Jimmy Taxes decided against that, and in time, the water rates went through the roof, and the water department ended up with a huge surplus (that somehow has disappeared?).

    This Haverhill government as a whole is really a laughable bunch.

  2. I have no idea why Haverhill has waited this long to get this done. Why do we always wait until it becomes a crisis situation ? Seems to be the motus operendi around here.