NORTON — Time to celebrate with a glass of clean water.
The long-awaited, long-delayed water treatment plant that is expected to resolve a lot of the town’s lingering water quality problems is finally being put into operation.
The $11 million facility, which had been expected to open in the fall or late December, is being slowly brought on line, water officials say.
The water and sewer department has received a temporary occupancy permit from the town’s building department and an “approval to operate” letter from the state Department of Environmental Protection after inspections.
“I’m really excited about this,” water and sewer commissioner Luke Grant said. “This will get iced tea and dirty water complaints behind us. This is a very huge step.”
Water from one well was treated by the plant last week and gradually distributed into the water system.
“We are introducing it very slowly,” Grant said.
During this phase, officials are monitoring the water system for quality and disruption, and flushing lines may be necessary, officials said.
Residents and businesses are asked to monitor their water during the transition and call the water department at 508-285-0280 if there are any quality issues.
“Once we’re comfortable with the quality,” Grant said, the remaining two wells that will be served by the plant will be shut down and cleaned and have their pumps rebuilt.
They are expected to funnel water into the plant in four to six weeks, Grant said.
The treatment plant has been delayed as costs have risen several times.
Water rates are increasing to help pay for the new plant.
The plant is being financed over 20 years with the help of a low-interest state loan, and the cost is being spread out over the water system’s 5,831 customers. The annual debt payment for the plant is estimated at about $660,000.
“To see this come to fruition, it seemed to take forever,” Grant said.
The latest delays with the plant stemmed from taking wells out of operation to clean them and hiring and training personnel to operate it
There are also plans to hire an assistant water superintendent to assist Superintendent Frank Fournier.
“They’ve been working tirelessly,” Grant said of water department employees.
There is some remaining work to be done at the plant building and site but “nothing to prohibit the plant from operating in totally good fashion,” Grant said.
Ground was broken in June 2018 on the facility off Plain Street, which is located near three of the town’s five wells that tap into the Canoe River aquifer.
Besides addressing a manganese issue, the water treatment plant will help filter out iron that has discolored the water.
The water department has had to issue notifications to residents on occasion when manganese levels exceeded recommended levels.
While manganese is naturally occurring and necessary for proper nutrition, too much of it could adversely affect health over a lifetime.
The town has provided residents with a free clean water dispenser outside town hall the past couple of years.
A $2 million-a-year program to install new water lines is also cleaning the water, Grant pointed out. Many old water lines are full of sediment that flushing can only alleviate so much. Next up is a new water line for Pine Street.
The new water lines and new water treatment plant will “eliminate many problems with dirty water,” Grant said.