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Waterford - Regional town and water authority leaders on Wednesday morning officially broke ground on the final stage of a project they said will ensure uninterrupted water supply for the foreseeable future.
The final phase of the project, constructing a new intake pump in Lake Konomoc, will allow the water authority to draw an additional 366 million gallons of water from deep within the reservoir off Route 85 in Waterford. It will also create, in effect, a backup to the current pump system.
"When finished, we will be able to access millions of gallons of drinking water that is already here but currently unattainable," said Barry Weiner, chairman of the Water & Water Pollution Control Authority. "As the demand for water increases and it is much harder to get, we will be able to pump that water efficiently and economically well into the future."
Already, the water authority has completed the installation of a 2,200 foot intake pipe that reaches about 35 feet deeper into the lake than the current one.
"This will allow us to access water at a lower level in the event that the lake water level is lower," said Joseph Lanzafame, New London's director of public utilities. "The concern about running out of water to serve our communities kind of goes away with this project."
In total, the project will cost roughly $5.9 million. It is scheduled to be completed in about a year.
The majority of the project will be funded with a low-interest loan from the Connecticut Department of Public Health Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The loan, with a 2 percent interest rate, will be paid back over 20 years. The state is also expected to reimburse between 5 and 10 percent of the cost.
The city and town officials who spoke Wednesday said the groundbreaking represents a step forward in regionalization efforts.
"In New London, we're often discussing where we need to catch up ... but with water it is the one area where we have worked together to look forward," Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said. "To be able to create a backup system, to be able to tap into our water reserves at lower levels, prevents future droughts and addresses future water supply needs."
East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica called the event a "banner day" for regional cooperation.
"It is incumbent for us to find solutions now because they take so long to bring them into effect," he said.
Beginning this summer, and as part of a project that began a year ago, East Lyme will send water to the reservoir from fall to mid-May and then New London will send the stored water back to the town for the summer months when demand is higher. East Lyme residents approved the $10.9 million to pay for the project in 2011.
Waterford First Selectman Daniel Steward praised the project as one that serves multiple communities, involves local officials working together and will be completed by a local business, Carlin Contracting.
"Water is so important to us and if we don't plan now we're not going to have it later," he said.