NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

June 18, 2014

Concerns raised about increased water demands

(Continued)

During most of the year, Slayton said, the town’s water needs can be filled by pumping about 1 million gallons of water a day to satisfy residents and businesses. But during the summer, demand can grow to about 1.9 million gallons a day, which is uncomfortably close to the town’s maximum pumping capacity of about 2.13 million gallons a day. And that’s only if all wells are producing and water levels are satisfactory.

”We’re good 10 months of the year,” Slayton told selectmen. “But July and August are very scary at times.”

Since 2000 the levels of Seabrook’s wells have been dropping due to rainfall issues, DeNatale said, and things are getting even dicier because some wells were sunk in the 1960s and 1970s. The placement of the town’s wellfields — in the western part of town — is also a worry, as the recharge area is not covered with the type of soils that readily allow rainwater or snow melt to perculate down to the aquifer quickly.

”You have a lot (of wells) but they’re drought sensitive,” DeNatale said. “In Seabrook’s case, it’s true: You can’t have enough water. You don’t want to turn manufacturers away (from siting in town) for lack of capacity.”

In 1965, when the town was enduring a drought while experiencing a growth period, it took four years to find and bring on a new well, he said. He strongly recommended the town be “proactive and not reactive” when it comes to dealing with its growing water needs.

Bell and Denatele presented selectmen with a multi-option plan that includes testing new wells in existing wellfields that already have productive wells. They also recommended replacing bedrock well 4, which has lost so much of its yield.

After the presentation on Monday, selectmen OK’d spending $24,000 to perform short-term pump tests on three existing bedrock test wells at the Riley, BMX, Gun Range wellfield sites to estimate the supply potential and analyze water quality. Logic indicates that these three test sites in areas already proven to have access to the aquifer will show potential for the sinking of permanent wells to augment the town’s water supply.

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