Talks planned on new pipe to supply water to Montville High School

Montville - An environmental engineering consulting firm will present ideas for a new pipeline to supply water to Montville High School during a special Town Council meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The high school has relied on bottled water for drinking and cooking since fall of 2012, when a contractor conducting a routine analysis of the school's well water and found high levels of manganese in the water, according to Superintendent Brian Levesque.

"It's certainly an inconvenience, but you know, one that we can work around," Levesque said Monday, explaining that using bottled water at the high school costs roughly $25,000 annually. "We can't keep bottled water here for the long term."

Water Pollution Control Authority Administrator Brian Lynch said a new pipeline could cost somewhere in the ballpark of $5 million and that costs would vary based on the route of the line.

The route would start somewhere near the intersection of Routes 163 and 32, and could either continue mostly along Route 163 or follow town roads, he said. He added that following town roads would likely be less expensive but that other factors must also be taken into consideration.

Town Council Chairman Joe Jaskiewicz and WPCA Chairman Tim May, who is also a council member, said that following Route 163 could help facilitate economic development by making water more accessible to prospective new businesses.

May said that a new pipeline would also allow the town to install additional fire hydrants in the Oakdale neighborhood, which could bring down home insurance costs for those living in that area.

Access to fire hydrants is an issue throughout the town and that firefighters often have to rely on water from portable tanks, according to May - a method he said is less effective than tapping into hydrants.

The amount of manganese in water from the high school's well was 16 or 17 milligrams per liter when last tested, according to Vicky Carrier, a sanitary engineer for drinking water at the state Department of Public Health. Testing for manganese is not required frequently and that the numbers were a few years old, she said.

The DPH "action level" (AL) for manganese in drinking water is 0.5 milligrams per liter, according to an informational flier from the department.

"Exposure to high concentrations of manganese over the course of years has been associated with toxicity to the nervous system, producing a syndrome that resembles Parkinsonism," states the flier. "The new manganese AL is set low enough to ensure that the potential nervous system effect will not occur, even in those who may be more sensitive."

Carrier said DPH believed the high manganese levels to be isolated to the high school's well and said she did not know the source of the problem.

Levesque said the district has explored putting in a system to filter out manganese but has not found a reliable solution along those lines, and Carrier said filtering the mineral out would be difficult.

May said that the district could in theory dig a new well, but said that district officials fear encountering the same problem again.

May said the purpose of the Wednesday meeting is for the council to determine if it will continue exploring the option of building a water line. He said that should the council decide at the meeting to consider a water line, the next steps will include additional informational meetings, followed by public hearings and ultimately a referendum vote.

May said that the consulting firm making Wednesday's presentation, GHD of Middletown, built a water line for the town a few years ago on Maple Avenue. He said GHD first presented ideas for a water line running to the high school at a WPCA meeting in fall 2013.

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