She further explained that the money for the project has been borrowed for a period of 20 years. The expectation was that water rates would increase initially to cover the costs, but within the next 10 years, the rates would level off aided by the fact that three other debts will be paid off.
Approval for a $9 million water treatment plant was given at the 2009 Town Meeting, and another $3.3 million was approved at the 2010 Town Meeting. Engineers from Weston & Sampson of Peabody are overseeing the project, which the town is required to finish under an administrative consent order by the state Department of Environmental Protection, or face exorbitant fines and/or possibly have the DEP take on the project themselves, costing much more money.
The urgent need for a water treatment plant and transmission main was first presented to the Board of Selectmen in October 2009. Repeated incidences with water safety issues, evidenced by the presence of coliform, in two of the towns water stations — Well 5 and Well 3 — had resulted in notices of non-compliance from the DEP, once in 2006 and again in September 2009. (Coliform by itself is not harmful in the water supply; however, it can indicate the presence of harmful bacteria, such as E.coli.)
The town was then required to provide plans to the DEP that outlined how future events of coliform incidents would be addressed, and the building of a water treatment plant satisfied this request. The water board stressed that it would not be proposing such an option if a suitable alternative to correcting the issues with the water were found that was easier or less expensive. There was no tax increase associated with the project, but it was expected at that time that water rates would more than double to fund the initiative.