Council Approves River Well Plan; Rates to Increase 50%

Haverhill City Councilor Michael S. McGonagle was the sole vote against the $17.2 million water project.


Deputy DPW Director Robert E. Ward.

In three to four years, Haverhill will be a bit more drought resistant—and paying at least 50 percent more for water—when it begins to take drinking water from a well below the Merrimack River.

Haverhill City Councilors Tuesday night approved a $17.2 million loan order to install the well and pipe the water. Only Councilor Michael S. McGonagle voted against borrowing the money, but Councilor Andy Vargas acknowledged the hefty rate increases facing ratepayers.

“One of the main concerns I had was the fact that within the next five years, our water rates are scheduled to go up by 50 percent. Right? Plus the $22 a year after this long order,” Vargas said.

Other questions centered on whether the entry of Merrimack water would taint the city’s existing above-ground supplies.

Council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett again expressed fear about the tidal effects of the river bringing salt water into the city’s drinking water. Deputy DPW Director Robert E. Ward, however, said there is a difference between upriver tides and a “salt wedge” that forms just below Rocks Village. He said the city will take water from an as yet unidentified location further upstream. Barrett also asked if Merrimack River water, with its potentially higher levels of salt, will be pumped into Kenoza Lake or directly into the city’s treatment plant. Ward responded he prefers pumping the water into the lake since it will save money. However, he added, the state could require separate treatment.

“We’ll have the flexibility to go to either Millvale Reservoir, Kenoza Lake or the water treatment plant,” Ward said.

McGonagle questioned whether this year’s unusual drought indicates a new rainfall pattern requiring additional spending. The councilor said the only way the increased spending makes sense is if the city also sells water to other communities. Ward said last weekend’s rain did bring nearly two inches of water, but it isn’t enough. He said the project goal is not to sell more water. McGonagle said he favors additional conservation first. He explained the city never moved beyond voluntary water restrictions this summer.

Councilor William J. Macek said he has come to support plans to take river water despite earlier reservations.

“I’ve always liked the fact that we weren’t drinking from the Merrimack,” he said.

In a separate vote sponsored by Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua, members unanimously agreed to send letters to U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey asking for federal assistance. Bevilacqua said the entire nation is looking at infrastructure replacement concerns and Haverhill could become a model.

6 thoughts on “Council Approves River Well Plan; Rates to Increase 50%

  1. this is poor plan. city filed to maintin three surface ater spplies and related infrastructure, has no water conservation plan either. time for mayor for life jimmi to take a bathbrcause this smells

  2. This is absolutely insane!

    How come the citizens of Haverhill do not have a vote? Clearly our city counselors and mayor are not protecting our best interest. A 50% increase is completely unacceptable!

  3. simply awful plan. mayor fe jimmi has mismanagede haverhills water resources so his pals can develop in watershed of both chadwick and Johnson ponds. also gave up rights to hovey’s pond

  4. A 50% increase into a budget that had a 9 million dollars surplus about 5 years ago. And a Mayor that tells us that our taxes aren’t going up, while we continue with debt exclusions that never expire and actually get bigger – never ending.

    This city council and the people who vote these clowns in are a joke – with no tie to reality.

    This city needs a complete review of his books by a totally independent firm, the corruption has hit a high mark – and all people are worried about is who won American Idol.

  5. What’s millions more of debt issuance and impoverishing those who have to pay for it further?

    Haverhill’s revenues versus outlays are and have been going the wrong way for years, I guess it doesn’t matter anymore. Brian Dempsey is going to have to work extra hard the next few years to supplement over one-third of Haverhill’s state aid supplemented budget as Massachusetts revenues are hundreds-of-millions short, and willl continue to do so for years to come according to bond counsel. The solution? More debt!

    Our government(s) are great at enslaving it’s own people without them even realizing it. What could possibly go wrong during deflation while at the same time having your purchasing power stolen!?