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Montville - As the town pushes forward a proposal from the Water Pollution Control Authority to install a pipeline to bring water to Montville High School and other locations, the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority is reminding the town of its own proposal for fixing the water situation at the school.
Montville High School has relied on bottled water for drinking and cooking since autumn 2012, when a contractor conducting a routine analysis of the school's well water found high levels of manganese in the water.
In a set of letters dated June 17 to town officials, SCWA General Manager Gregory Leonard told town officials of the proposal. The authority has estimated that connecting the high school to SCWA sources would cost $53,000.
SCWA "wishes to bring to your attention that it remains willing and able to assist the Town of Montville on a water quality matter at the Montville High School," reads a letter addressed to Montville Schools Superintendent Brian Levesque. Copies of the letter were also forwarded to Town Council Chairman Joseph Jaskiewicz and Mayor Ronald McDaniel.
An article in The Day about the WPCA proposal prompted the correspondence, according to Leonard.
"We just wanted to be sure that people were aware that there was this other option," he said.
The two proposals differ greatly in cost and scope. The SCWA proposal entails connecting the high school to the Chesterfield Division of the SCWA public water system, which Leonard said is located across the street from the school.
The proposed connection would provide water only to the high school and would not provide water for the school's fire sprinkler system, according to Leonard. The school's sprinkler system is fueled by water from Leonard J. Tyl Middle School, according to Montville Public Schools Business Manager Kathy Lamoureux.
The WPCA proposal is estimated to cost $6.8 million. The proposal would involve installing a new pipeline connected to the town water supply that would start somewhere near the intersection of Routes 163 and 32. In addition to the high school, the middle school would be able to connect to the pipeline as well as homes, potential new businesses and proposed new fire hydrants.
Officials have said they hope to see the proposal presented to voters as a referendum as early as November, and the WPCA is planning to begin public presentations to explain the proposal to voters.
"I think it has long term lasting benefits for the town beyond the short term fix for the high school," said McDaniel.
The two proposals appeared at around the same time last year, according to Town Councilor and WPCA Chairman Tim May. He said that the Board of Education heard presentations on both proposals. The board voted in favor of the WPCA proposal in March of 2013, according to meeting minutes.
The mayor and other town officials say there are multiple reasons for their preference of the WPCA proposal, including that the pipeline could aid in future economic development and that it would help the town solve water issues at the middle school, which Lamoureux said is facing high sodium levels in its water supply.
The officials say a key component in their support of the WPCA proposal is the pipeline's capacity to supply water to hydrants. Town fire departments frequently fight fires using water from tanks as opposed to hydrants.
May said that lack of hydrants have allowed fires to grow out of control in the past.
The owners of Oakdale Plaza sued the town and the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority in 2012, claiming both were negligent and failed to provide a sufficient water supply to fight a 2010 fire that destroyed the plaza.
"We saw a need for better fire main protection," said May.
Councilor Tom McNally said he is "vehemently opposed" to the WPCA plan and that be does not think additional hydrants are necessary. He said that SCWA owns the water system surrounding the high school, so the amount of additional hookups in that area would be limited.
Jaskiewicz said he felt the WPCA should mentioned the SCWA proposal as it conducts presentations around town in the lead-up to a referendum vote on whether to bond the proposed $6.8 million project.