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    Tuesday, July 16, 2024

    Norwich Public Utilities making major improvements to its drinking water system

    Norwich ― Norwich Public Utilities is taking advantage of unprecedented increases in federal grant support to launch several water system improvement projects.

    These including upgrading water tanks, installing a major water line and locating any remaining lead lines to customer homes.

    The utility needed City Council approval Monday to increase financing for two projects and add a new plan to repair the city’s main water line that brings water from the Deep River reservoir and treatment plant in Lebanon into Norwich.

    The federal bipartisan infrastructure law provided funding to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which sends Connecticut’s share to the state Department of Public Health. DPH provides grants and low-cost loans through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, NPU spokesman Chris Riley said.

    NPU General Manager Chris LaRose said the loan costs already are built into current rates, so no rate increases will be needed. No city tax money will be used for the projects.

    Because of delays in obtaining approvals, costs have escalated on the planned aeration upgrades to the 250,000-gallon water tank on Richard Brown Drive in Montville and the 670,000-gallon tank in the Stanley Israelite Norwich Business Park. Each project increased from $1.8 million to $2 million.

    The water tank projects will receive 30% grant funding and a 70% loan from the drinking water fund. Riley said in the past, such projects would only qualify for 6% to 8% grant portions, so it makes sense to pursue the big projects now.

    NPU received approval from the council for a new $2.9 million repair to the major water line that runs from Lebanon through Bozrah into Norwich. The line crosses a bridge just below the troublesome Fitchville Dam in Bozrah, where cracks and leaks during flooding on Jan. 10 prompted an emergency evacuation order and led to emergency measures to protect the dam.

    LaRose said NPU already has repaired damage to the earth supporting the water line caused by the flood.

    The project will address corrosion to the steel on a 100-foot-long utility bridge that braces the 30-inch water main beneath the Fitchville Road bridge over the Yantic River just below the dam. Construction is expected to start in fall of 2025, with 20% grant and 80% loan funding, LaRose said.

    NPU discovered some good news pertaining to the final planned water project. In a 2023 survey of water lines from streets into residential homes, NPU officials had expected to find hundreds of old remaining lead and copper lines. Instead, only four lead pipes were discovered.

    “Back in 1980s, NPU replaced all lead lines in the streets, but we were not allowed to touch customer-owned lines (from the street into homes),” LaRose said. “We’re finding that many owners had them replaced on their own without recording it.”

    Even so, the City Council agreed to allow NPU to increase funding from $500,000 to $2 million to verify the makeup of residential water lines into homes to discover any additional lead pipes. Inspections are planned to verify the materials in 340 lines, including 170 that will require basement inspections.

    The additional water line surveys are funded through an 80% grant and 20% loan. The survey results are due to the state in October, LaRose said.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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