BURLINGTON - The town of Burlington’s initiative to complete a water pipeline connection to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) is expected to be completed at least one-year ahead of schedule in 2022.

Burlington Department of Public Works (DPW) Director John Sanchez confirmed the Massachusetts Water Resources Commission recently approved the town’s inter-basin transfer application, resulting in a critical step in the ratification process coming to fruition.

“That vote was the biggest remaining step that needed to be taken,” Sanchez told the Board of Selectmen during its most recent virtual meeting. “It has taken two-and-a-half years to get here, but all that is left now are easier approvals compared to the one we just received from the [Massachusetts Water Resources Commission].”

The remaining approvals needed include coming back to the Burlington Planning Board, Conservation Commission, and Lexington Planning Board for various permit approvals.

As part of this project, a new water line would be constructed on Adams Street, off Middlesex Turnpike, heading through Lexington and connecting to Arlington where the nearest MWRA access point exists. Sanchez provided further welcome news to the selectmen, declaring the water pipe, as part of Phase I, from Adams Street in Lexington to Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington has been tested and is “90-95 percent complete.” This phase restores the 1 million-gallon water deficit that has been facing the town.

In regards to Phase II, Sanchez confirmed water pipeline construction from Adams Street to Arlington will begin in 2021 and is hoped to be completed by 2022.

“The pipe will allow us to abandon the Vine Brook Water Treatment Plant because it will provide all the water that treatment facility typically does for the town,” detailed Sanchez. “We are on schedule for Phase I, and a couple years ahead of schedule for Phase II.”

The selectmen expressed great pleasure in the good news, but had questions about the likelihood of the town continuing to need water bans when completely connected to the MWRA pipeline. Burlington remains in a full outdoor watering ban until March 31, 2021.

Sanchez acknowledged there will “still likely” be a need for such watering bans over “the next couple of years” but the occurrences won’t happen as frequently as they have in recent years.

Phases I & II of the project

- Short-term (Phase I)

Join the MWRA, construct a new water line in Adams Street (off Middlesex Turnpike, heading towards Lexington) and restore the 1 million-gallon water deficit by purchasing water through Lexington. The short-term solution keeps both treatment plants operational. This costs $5.3 million, which was approved at Town Meeting in May 2019. Of that $5.3 million, $700,000 goes towards constructing a water main and the remaining $4.6 million funds a fee the town has to pay the MWRA in order to join their water system. The fee is calculated through a formula that details the cost of water being provided through the MWRA. Each community has to pay the fee to join the MWRA, who provides a 25-year payment plan with 0 percent interest.

- Long-term (Phase II)

Construct a new water transmission main to access MWRA water through the nearest connection in Lexington and Arlington, maintain the Mill Pond Treatment Plant and terminate production at the Vine Brook Treatment Plant. Connecting to the MWRA will provide additional reliability and redundancy to the water supply system. This phase was not voted on at May Town Meeting. The long-term project will cost roughly $24.4 million.

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