By Paul Conyers
Pennichuck Chief Engineer, John Boisvert, gave a presentation to the Utilities Committee on Sept. 5 to update the town on a proposed expansion of the town water system. The ambitious project came in the aftermath of Saint-Gobain’s PFAS lawsuit and a need for greater capacity to bring more residents onto the Pennichuck system.
“We provide a large amount of water to the town of Hudson, like Londonderry, they’ve just had several wells taken out by PFAS contamination, they’re purchasing more and more water,” Boisvert explained. “Most of the water comes from Manchester, it’s the source of ninety percent of water that flows here.”
While there is an emergency water connection through Derry, a plan to add a 35-foot water tower on Gordon Drive would create redundancy and reduce the need for pump stations around South Road. He cited a water main break in Pilsbury two years ago that temporarily cut water service to much of the town when the Mountain Homes pump station shut down due to low pressure. A backup source through a new water tower would allow the system to maintain pressure, preventing a similar shutdown in the future.
“The plan is to start in 2024, we’ll start as early as we can, everything should be in use and service by the end of the year,” said Boisvert. Plans for the water tower were approved last year.
Pennichuck doesn’t anticipate any supply problems from the source at the Merrimack River, despite a growing population. There were no supply issues during the last drought, and although the company was watching for any changes to environmental standards, Boisvert specifically raised the possibility of new federal regulations around manganese levels in the water.
A more extensive buildout to connect 350 homes in the Saint-Gobain Consent Decree area and High Range is still in the planning stages, although Pennichuck has conducted an initial engineering study. The extension would serve neighborhoods across the west side of Londonderry.
There were questions as to what type of new piping would go into any future project, including the Gordon Drive water tower.
“Why would we not want to replace the existing line with a larger, 16-inch pipe to feed the Mountain Homes station?” asked Utilities Committee alternate member, Ray Beslin. “From a common-sense standpoint, it seems like something we’d want to do, right?”
Boisvert told the Committee that larger pipes would mean a larger pumping station most of Londonderry wouldn’t need.
However, there are several unknown factors including where a new pipeline will be located. Despite an initial study, Pennichuck was reluctant to move forward without hearing back from Saint-Gobain, and there are no detailed plans in place so far.
While members of the Utilities Committee expressed concern over funding new pipes, the NH Department of Environmental Services has confirmed that closure of the plastic facility move “does not affect or amend” the plastic company’s responsibilities to Londonderry residents.
“It’s a lot to think about,” said Breslin.