2005-09-08 / News

Second water tower to reduce the size of new water plant

By Dotti Farrington

The new water treatment plant would have to be 10 times bigger to produce the same fire protection benefits that a second waterstorage tower will provide, Director of Public Works Steven Goslee explained in an interview last week.

He was responding to questions prompted by some residents, especially Conanicut Marine Services owner William Munger, about the need for the second tower when the water plant is being replaced with one with a greater capacity for pumping water.

Munger had asked the council in mid-August why the tower was still needed. He suggested the greater capacity of the new plant would more than offset water quantity deficits.

Goslee said the new plant will be able to process up to 500,000 gallons a day, processing the water gradually over the course of 24 hours. He said the standards for appropriate fire protection calls for a water delivery of 35,000 gallons per minute over three hours, or a total of 630,000 gallons in a relatively short time. “For fire protection, you need a huge volume instantaneously,” Goslee noted.

He said that with the one tower existing tower on Howland Avenue the draw down for a significant fire would deplete the town’s water backup supply, with no margin during the summer peak water-use periods when even the new plant may be burdened by demand.

The second tower will provide the regulation requirements for delivery of water in an emergency, and as back up for peak summer use. The standards are applied through the insurance underwriting system, he noted. Meeting standards should result in improved fire insurance rates, although he said he does not have specific data on the rates, he said.

Goslee said the second tower will also provide the ability to meet normal maintenance standards for flushing and inspecting each tower every five years. The town could repair and paint the towners without causing the town to operate without any backup.

He also said that a backup water supply, in the towers, is needed in case of problems that might be produced by any treatment plant malfunctioning due to case of lightning, hurricanes, fire, or mechanical or chemical failure. Each tower represents a backup of up to two days supply for people on the municipal water system.

Goslee reported that the workshop or public hearing on the water department operations that has been requested by Munger and other residents scheduled to be released in October, as a follow up to the public presentation he made in the spring.

Last April

Goslee gave a detailed presentation last April. Among other factors, he explained, the current system wastes about 33,000 gallons in filter backwashing for an average of approximately 215,000 gallons of useable water produced every day.

The town’s water problems during summer months occur because the demand rises to 450,000 gallons a day, but the treatment plant can now handle only 350,000 gallons a day, drawing the extra needed from the water tower, he said.

He reported that the new plant will produce up to 500,000 gallons a day to meet seasonal needs. The additional gallonage cannot be drawn on as a new source for new water connections, as some residents have been expecting.


Goslee’s report in April was part of his review of work on designing the new water treatment plant on North Main Road, the new second water storage tower on Howland Avenue, and new distribution work, including new fire hydrants in the village. The work will be done for an estimated total of $5.3 million under a bond approved by voters last year.

In conjunction with his review, he reported that lower water pumping totals in recent months reflect more efficient pumping and less loss due to leaks in the distribution system. He said actual consumption by users of town water is about the same as in recent years, and thus will not be reflected in lower income for the water department, as some officials speculated. Some officials had also speculated that the lower pumping totals reflected more use of conservation methods, but Goslee said that water-use data does not show that.

No action

Officials still have not acted on, or even further discussed, a citizen’s suggestion early this year that townwide enforcement of outside water uses be imposed whenever a ban on town water uses is in effect, usually during summer months.

The issue had been raised more than once previously, but no research has been reported on how to apply such restrictions, or if it could be done legally or practically.


Goslee also reported early this year that the reverse osmosis technology for treating sea or brackish (partly salt) water was too expensive to be part of the town’s water system. He said that it would be financially practical only if and when the technology is greatly improved for treating brackish water. He projected that the reverse osmosis system never would be practical for desalinization of sea water, as some residents have suggested.

It was not practical, not only because of high cost, but also because the amount of backwash — the amount of water used to clean the plant’s filters — was as much as the useable water it would produce, Goslee said.

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