The Mattapoisett River Valley Water District Commission doesn’t need any more convincing that replacing its aging and practically obsolete Targa II water-treating system with a brand new, state-of-the-art Puron MP system is the way to go. The challenge is purely financial.
Koch Separation Solutions, the company that would either install new Puron MP technology or for a limited time provide parts to extend the life of the current system, had presented in November 2019. But with several new members on the MRV Water District Commission and many discussions that have nibbled at the edges of the core issue, a refresher presentation was considered to be appropriate.
That took place during the January 12 Zoom meeting of the commission. Representing Koch, Melanie Blake explained some of the advantages of the Puron MP system.
With 81-by-8-inch cartridges and at 10 feet tall as opposed to 14.5, the Puron MP system takes up a smaller footprint than the present Targa II. Puron’s good polymer chemistry assures removals, and its one-end potting design avoids sludging and sedimentation.
The Puron system has been approved in California and Texas for drinking water but not yet in Massachusetts. “When we take over the pilot, we have no concerns over it being accepted,” said Blake.
Inputs and outputs on the Puron MP system come completely assembled, and there are no pneumatics or electronics on the rack portion. “It makes it easier; it can fit through a loading-bay door,” said Blake. Energy savings are expected to improve with Puron’s blower rather than the circulation pump used by Targa II.
The MRV got 10 years of life from its Targa II system, exceeding projections, but Blake expects Puron MP to last longer than that.
A question from Mattapoisett-based commission member Paul Silva yielded an interesting discussion on a facility in Texas, the only US-based facility with the Puron MP technology that is producing drinking water. That facility is also a Targa II retrofit, running both systems at the same time since 2016. The systems share ancillary aspects such as backflush. “We went in with that design intent and modified the controls to make that happen,” said Blake.
“We would have a similar situation,” said Jon Gregory of Tata & Howard. “The district can’t just get rid of all the existing skids at once. It would be a phased approach.” Gregory estimates that the new and old systems would have to run concurrently for several months at a minimum. Targa II was running in the Texas location for a comparable amount of time it has been running in Mattapoisett.
Another motivation for a new Puron MP system is Koch’s plan to phase out Targa II cartridge replacement this year. Jack Cangiano, also representing Koch, said Targa cartridges would be made through June, and the company will decide if it will continue to order Targa II membrane.
A piloting program could land an abbreviated version of the unit in Mattapoisett by next month. The Puron MP unit would conduct testing for a month, pending state Department of Environmental Protection Agency approval. Blake explained that with state approval, the pilot equipment could conduct a four-week test and submission of a report to the state for approval for the site.
It will be a fully self-contained unit, fully automated with a 2-inch hose pushing 20 gallons per minute from the current existing feed water that will ultimately go to the drain because it has not been approved for usage. The unit would arrive in a small box truck and would be set up at the facility.
State representatives are not required to visit by statute but might out of curiosity. Gregory referenced a state visit to a Barnstable County facility that drew a visit.
“We know the technology will work,” said Paul Howard of Tata & Howard. “It’s going to remove; we know that. It can’t not remove it, you just have to prove it.”
Cangiano said that the fiber used in Puron MP technology is much more rugged, durable. Blake added that the fiber for Puron MP is also used in other technologies, so “the fiber is not going anywhere.”
Gregory noted that Texas doesn’t have the iron and manganese in its water that Massachusetts has.
Silva shifted the conversation to the $15 million spent on the existing plant, noting that in five years, a $13.5 million block of debt will be paid, “relieving a tremendous amount of burden on the taxpayers.” In 2027, he said, another $2 million comes off the books. Trying to figure out how to phase into this Puron MP project without burdening the towns’ taxpayers is “work that we absolutely need to do before we make any kind of commitment to go to Town Meeting.”
Chairman Vincent Furtado, Fairhaven, said the MRV has to go to the Puron MP system eventually, comparing the situation to the pump stations in town. “There’s no parts anymore. Cost-benefit analysis, we’ll have to do,” he said.
“Looking at the debt end of it, how do we accomplish what we want to do without increasing that debt today?” asked Silva. “I don’t think we’ve put enough time and energy into that is what I’m getting at.”
Vinnie Furtado agreed.
Commission member Henri Renauld noted that, while in 12 years the Targa II system has never blown a cartridge and the MRV has never bought one, a band-aid approach would saddle the MRV with $594,000 in cartridges to replace eventually. Acquiring other parts has become a grave concern. “I can’t even find some of the stuff on eBay…. It’s a limp-along program. Any investment in Targa is going to be made in stuff that’s no longer going to be made,” said Renauld. “We’ve got to nail down the cost stuff and see what’s the best way to borrow…. It’s going to cost more money in the long run, even though we may save more money in the beginning.”
Silva noted that his term expires in three months, so the commission will need to identify a member to take over his financial advocacy.
Commission member Rick Charron said a refinancing idea is the best sell at Town Meeting, and Silva added that four towns have to approve, including one (Marion) that isn’t happy with its sewer rate.
Marion member Randy Parker said, “I think you’ve got to come up with a total cost.”
The commission voted to initiate plans for the pilot test as a means of being better equipped to tackle the financial question.
Silva then suggested a conference call with Unibank, including Treasurer Meghan Davis and Furtado, who summarized the effort being, “Here’s what we’re thinking of doing … adding another $4 million to the loan.”
Silva left the meeting to prepare for Tuesday night’s Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen meeting due to start in 40 minutes.
In her Treasurer’s Report, Davis reported an invoice total of $160,278.39, including $44,994.73 from Mattapoisett for second-quarter billing, a final invoice from Fall River Electric for $16,840.90 for the MRV Primaries Project, a $23,109 invoice from Eversource, $6,239.60 from Tata & Howard, and maintenance totaling $8,509.66.
Davis said she plans to finalize the FY22 budget and send it out this week to each of the MRV towns.
Silva asked for the total cost to put utility lines underground, and Gregory’s estimates were broken down to Tata & Howard’s project fee of $124,000 and the contract sum of $336,818 for an estimated total of $416,000. “Always good to come under,” said Silva, who spearheaded the financial discussion that followed Koch’s presentation.
In other business, the commission approved Gregory’s 2020 Tata & Howard report and Henri Renauld’s monthly Treatment Plant report, the latter recording 686,806,000 gallons of water produced through the MRV.
The first half-hour of Tuesday’s Zoom was dedicated to the MRV Water Safety Protection Advisory Committee.
In the Treasurer’s Report presented by Jeff Furtado and approved by the committee, invoices included $4,929 from Tata & Howard, $50 from Blair Bailey, $170 from Megan McCarthy, and $252.09 from Dave Watling. The ending balance was $185,601.50. Payments to date are $24,765.11, and income as of January 1 is $24,352.81.
Farinon and Gregory discussed charting reports on water levels and agreed to discuss in the committee’s February meeting when data for the entire year would be available.
New invoices were approved to pay in invoices $651.97 to Tata & Howard, $102 for graphs to McCarthy, and $252.09 for services to Watling.
The advisory committee also voted to approve a letter to be written by Vinnie Furtado on behalf of the committee endorsing the redrawing of lot lines in Rochester related to Approval Not Required applications to the Zoning Board of Appeals for properties at 246 and 268 New Bedford Road in Rochester.
The committee’s Levelogger equipment is wearing out. According to Gregory, a plastic-threaded adapter worth $75 needs replacement. Also, the data grabber that Rochester Herring Inspector David Watling uses to work in the field has been in use for many years. Gregory suggested a $360 investment in a backup data grabber and two of the Leveloggers. The advisory committee endorsed Tata & Howard’s purchase as recommended by Gregory.
In her report to the committee, Farinon alluded to several projects in 2020. She said that the subcommittee that was organized to tackle several issues, including the phragmites at Snipatuit Pond, determined the phragmites to be too extensive a problem. “It’s really beyond our scope…. We took a break for now,” she told the committee.
The advisory committee discussed the departure of Mark Rees of Fairhaven but did not make immediate plans to replace him. The committee voted to approve Farinon’s report.
The next meeting of the MRV Water committee and commission is scheduled for February 9 at 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm, respectively.
MRV Water Supply Protection Advisory Committee/District Commission
By Mick Colageo