Drought Poses Challenges to Regional Water Watchdogs

            In his operations update for the regional water-treatment plant, Henri Renauld said, “It’s been really nice to get through these windstorms and not get all our primaries (high-voltage electrical wires) blown down.”

            Renauld noted that age is a factor with such equipment in his October 13 update to members of the Mattapoisett River Valley Water District Commission during their back-to-back Zoom meetings with the far-overlapping membership of the Mattapoisett River Valley Water Supply Protection Advisory Committee.

            There are challenges to maintaining equipment that engages water, and Renauld indicated that the MRV’s meter that reads oxygen level is failing. It is by far not the most expensive problem, but its value has been well established. Renauld told the commission that, in Mattapoisett, lead and copper sampling passed with great numbers and so the town put on a lower monitoring schedule at this time.

            Those small victories all count for a group of concerned citizens improving, managing, and saving the region’s freshwater supply.

            It was on the MRV Water Protection Supply Advisory Committee’s agenda to discuss surface-water levels on the Mattapoisett River.

            “A lot happened since the last meeting,” said Laurell Farinon, Rochester’s conservation agent, alluding to the 2020 drought, the beaver situation, and issues along Route 6.

            “Drought status is Level 3, but (Tuesday) it rained hard,” said Renauld. “We’re in a critical level at this time, but we’re basically starting to get past the point of outdoor watering. … My personal opinion is we stay with the voluntary (water ban) at this time.”

            The committee and commission that serve the Tri-Town and Fairhaven welcomed the first Treasurer’s Report from Marion DPW engineer Meghan Davis, who noted an irregularity in the amount invoiced by Eversource. The utility company billed the MRV $13,498.72. Farinon suggested that there were reasons to believe that some months were missing from prior invoices.

            The fiscal year invoice from Mattapoisett for the quarterly cost of running the regional water-treatment plant is $45,984.82. The final requisition for payment has come in from Fall River Electrical for the execution of the certificate of completion at $9,600.

            Davis also told the commission that UniBank wants to make a change in the commission’s type of bank account from vendor account to checking account. The change, in title only, will help the commission improve its ability to track information.

            The MRV made a $16,840.90 payment, its fifth and final payment, to Fall River Electric, and Eversource now takes over management of the primary (high-voltage) electrical equipment.

            The committee voted to approve Renauld and Committee/Commission Chairman Vinny Furtado to sign all invoices until the commission can meet again in person.

            The status of a payment of approximately $1,600 to Fairhaven for accounting services was discussed because the town never submitted an invoice to the MRV Water District. That item was put on the agenda for the next meeting, which will be held on November 10.

            Renauld suggested in advance of next month’s meeting that budget work should begin.

            In the MRV Water Supply Protection Committee meeting beforehand, Treasurer Jeff Furtado reported an October 1 ending balance of $180,109.56.

            The annual assessment has been invoiced to each of the member towns, but none have been paid. Fairhaven’s town meeting is coming up on Tuesday, October 20, so funds are not expected to be released until November. Marion and Mattapoisett were said to be ready to go.

            Engineering firm Tata & Howard invoiced the committee for $3,537.61 to catch up on 2015 and 2016 annual reports and river monitoring.

            The committee received a reimbursement of $5,000 and also deposits in lesser amounts from Rockland Trust.

            The committee approved solar-array projects for both Randall Lane in Mattapoisett and Cushman Road in Rochester.

            The Rochester project is a 3.9-megawatt, ground-mounted solar array in what is considered an undeveloped and forested area. The committee expressed no objections pending the Conservation Commission’s evaluation regarding wetlands restrictions and stormwater runoff. The Mattapoisett project is a larger solar array at 7.7 megawatts. Although one of the eastern-most panels falls within a zonal area in question, members took up no issues.

            The committee approved the $850 purchase of a specific conductance probe for its Hach Meter. Jon Gregory of Tata & Howard engineers said that the added gear emanates from a request to monitor Snow’s Pond. Farinon said that University of Rhode Island “water watchers” group training used the item and that Snow’s Pond Association checks at least weekly on water conditions at two locations. Farinon sees potential usefulness of the probe beyond into the MRV’s areas in possibly into Snipatuit and Leonard’s ponds. “I think it’s something that would be really helpful,” she said.

            Former chairman David Pierce participated in the call and helped solve questions about an annual payment made by the committee. Despite living in central Vermont now, Pierce will continue to assist the MRV.

            The next meetings of the MRV Committee and Commission is scheduled for November 10.

MRV Water Supply Protection Advisory Committee/District Commission

By Mick Colageo

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