, Newburyport, MA

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June 18, 2014

Concerns raised about increased water demands

SEABROOK — It’s been years since the adequacy of the water supply has been an issue in town, but dry weather and depleting production at old wells has officials moving both to improve the condition of aging wells and search for new ones.

John Bell and Doug DeNatale from AECOM Technology Corporation met with selectmen on Monday to discuss the issues that are worrying water superintendent Curtis Slayton and well operator George Eaton.

In 2008, after a couple of very rainy springs, town well levels were doing fine, according to Slayton. But since 2009, when springs and summers grew dryer, well levels have been dropping, he said. In addition, some of the town’s wells are getting on in age and feeling the effects.

Production at some old wells is depleting, the men said. Bedrock well 4, for example, which is more than 40 years old, is producing less than half of what it once did. According to Eaton, bedrock 4 once pumped 250 gallons of water a minute in its prime, but today it’s only coming up with about 100 gallons a minute.

Demand for water is growing to accommodate an expanding year-round residential population that swells even more in the summer months, and an increasing commercial sector that includes new shopping centers and a nuclear power plant.

The power plant alone consumes about 60 million gallons annually, Slayton said, or about 20 percent of the 340 million total gallons the town uses during a year. At any time of the year during refueling or for other reasons, the power plant can have huge water demands, Slayton said.

He can get a call a day or so in advance from NextEra Energy Seabrook nuclear power plant personnel advising him that within a day or so the plant will need as much as from 100,000 to 300,000 gallons of water. Eaton added that this spring, during the month the plant powered up after being shut down for refueling, it consumed millions of gallons of water.

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