BURLINGTON – It’s not going to happen overnight, but the community’s initiative to join the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) is making strides at the state level.
Last May Town Meeting, the body firmly passed a warrant article calling for a $5.3 million funding request that officially started the process of Burlington joining the MWRA.
The approval firmly backed the start of a two-phased plan that will address the current and long-term water issues facing the community. The $5.3 million is going towards the first phase of the project that will provide Burlington with a redundant source of water through the MWRA.
Department of Public Works (DPW) Director John Sanchez recently provided the Board of Selectmen with an update on the extensive process.
Part of the progression consists of getting the State Legislation and Gov. Charlie Baker to formally support Burlington’s request to join the MWRA, which both parties did one month ago.
Next, the town is continuing to work with the state on an Environmental Notification Form. This is part of a full environmental report that is crafted in a phased process.
“We are currently working on the second part of the form,” stated Sanchez. “It is a very lengthy part of the [MWRA membership] process. The good news is we are a few weeks away from submitting our draft on our environmental impact report. We have been working with state agencies throughout this process, so we do not expect aby hiccups when it gets to the final stages of the report.”
Once the environmental aspect is complete, the next step is 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 professed the “hope” is to get all the state and local permits this winter, install the water pipe on Adams Street and become an official card-carrying member of the MWRA by 2023.
“Installing the pipe on Adams Street and connecting it to Lexington’s MWRA connection would be the first time Burlington is able take water from Lexington without it being a declared water emergency,” added Sanchez.
Selectman James Tigges wanted to make sure residents are aware that the prolonged process to become a member of the MWRA is not the fault of town officials.
“This process is basically 90 percent permitting process and 10 percent construction,” Selectman Tigges opined. “With all the hoops we have to go through with the state, I want residents to know it is not us holding it up.”
Sanchez is expecting to move forward with the design of Phase II of the project, instead of waiting until Town Meeting in 2021. That may expedite the completion process.
“We will ask Town Meeting for $1.5 million,” detailed Sanchez. “If all goes well, both phases of the project should be completed two-to-three years from now.”
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 last May. 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 town would have to pay an additional fee to take more water from the MWRA system. The long-term project would cost roughly $24.4 million.