Archive: Meeting Agendas and Summaries
We will meet at 10:00 am in the Blue Meadow conference room and then drive up to New Salem for the first portion of the forestry tour. Lunch will be provided at the New Salem General Store. We will get back in the vans and drive to the Prescott peninsula for the second half of the tour. Please be prompt and wear sturdy walking shoes. Some forestry sites are close to the road and several require some walking. Long pants and bug repellent are optional but helpful in the woods.
Introduction-Whitney Beals, WSCAC Chair
MWRA System Expansion Panel with MWRA staff Pam Heidell and Steve Estes- Smargiassi, Joe Favaloro, Director of the MWRA Advisory Board, and Michele Drury from the Office of Water Resources will be talking about the process and policies for admission of a new community to the MWRA water system.
WSCAC Briefs-Whit Beals and Lexi Dewey
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THE NEXT WSCAC MEETING WILL BE ON JUNE 28TH AT THE BLUE MEADOW CONFERENCE CENTER, QUABBIN RESERVOIR. A CHOICE OF BOAT RIDE OR FORESTRY WALK WILL BE OFFERED AFTER THE MORNING MEETING. LUNCH IS INCLUDED. PLEASE RSVP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE SO WE KNOW HOW MANY WILL BE ATTENDING.
Introduction - Stephen Greene, WAC Chair
FEATURED PRESENTATION: Kathy Soni, MWRA Budget Director, will be discussing the FY13 proposed budget and the community assessments calculated after the budget is established.
If members have specific questions, please email them to the office so that Kathy can address them at the meeting.
The next WSCAC meeting will be on May 22nd at the MWRA facilities in Southborough.
Whit Beals, WSCAC Chair, asked that everyone in attendance introduce themselves. A motion to approve the summary of the November 29, 2011 and January 26, 2012 WSCAC meetings was made and seconded. The summary for both meetings were approved by the committee.
Whit noted the timeliness of Jonathan Yeo’s presentation on DCR Land Acquisition given Environment Massachusetts’ recent letters on the need to ban logging at Quabbin. Jonathan said it was very unfortunate that Environment Massachusetts has not done research on DWSP land management or visited DCR lands at Quabbin. He expressed hope that the Scientific Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) report would be out in the next few months and recognized that no matter what DCR does, there will always be some people opposed to the agency’s forestry work.
Jonathan Yeo’s Presentation
Jonathan Yeo spoke on DCR Division of Water Supply Protection land acquisition and began his presentation by reading two statements. The first is DCR’s mission statement: “Utilize and conserve water and other natural resources to protect, preserve and enhance the environment of the Commonwealth and assure the availability of pure water for future generations”. The second statement addresses the importance of land management. Jonathan read the following from DCR’s internal land acquisition strategy: “The management and maintenance of watershed lands in a natural condition is paramount to the continuous supply of pure water. The finest drinking waters in the world are a product of the natural filtering processes of the forested landscape. The replication of these natural processes using infrastructure-based treatment and filtration is inferior to and more expensive than the incomparable benefits derived from watershed land protection”.
There are four major concepts that guide DWSP watershed management:
Protect the most sensitive areas of the watershed through ownership or agreements with land owners.
Manage DWSP-owned properties to protect water quality and provide stewardship of natural resources.
Work with watershed communities to protect water resources while accommodating community needs.
Monitor to identify potential or existing water quality problems.
Land procurement and preservation are key factors necessary for controlling 8 out 12 identified sources of pollutants in the watersheds.
In the early 1980s, DCR only owned 7.9% of the Wachusett watershed. Through a series of land acquisitions that began in 1985 DCR has increased their ownership of the Wachusett to 27.8% which exceeds the 25% the EPA recommended back in the 1980s.
A Land Acqusition Panel (LAP) was formed in 1993 of DCR and MWRA scientists, engineers, foresters and planners in “Expert Choice” analysis of land factors determining water quality protection. DCR used GIS to rate every parcel of land. Expert choice considers among other things, the slope of the land, zoning, underground aquifers, sewers, and whether the land is protected under the Watershed Protection Act (WsPA). Unsewered lands and valuable tributaries not protected by the WPA are lands DCR wanted to buy. Jonathan brought a map showing every parcel of Wachusett land rated from 1 to 7. Parcels rated 4-7 are highest priority for acquisition. A second map showed high priority parcels not currently owned by DCR.
Jonathan gave the group a sense of how the land acquisition process works, the new technologies that make the process a little easier, and the complexities that can come into play. All acquisitions must be approved by the MWRA Board of Directors in executive session. A question was asked on why Board approval is sometimes difficult to obtain. Jonathan mentioned a couple of issues. The Board sometimes questions the value of the land versus its cost. The high cost of Pilot payments (payments in lieu of taxes) made annually to the community where the land is purchased can be an issue. Land already partially protected can raise questions about the need to buy additional protection.
Jonathan recapped the progress made by DCR since 1985 using graphs highlighting DCR owned lands and other protected lands. On a combined basis, DCR owned 33.6% of Wachusett, Ware River, and Quabbin watershed land in 1985. Today they own 43.4% with another 12% protected by other groups. Quabbin ownership has gone from 54.3% to 58.4% and the Ware River has gone from 31.3% to 38.2%. Overall, over 22,000 acres have been acquired in over 500 acquisitions totaling $131 million. Jonathan noted that it takes a massive amount of work to acquire land.
Slides of the Bear Hill Subdivision located in the Ware River watershed in the town of Rutland were used to illustrate what can happen without land acquisition. The Bear Hill Estates subdivision is on a steep hill and includes 53 houses on 71 acres. DCR, DEP and the Attorney General’s office have been working for over six years to control the environmental damages from the site. A permanent injunction and civil penalty have been ordered against the builder for permitting large amounts of sediment to discharge from the construction site into Moulton Pond and surrounding wetlands. Blair Enterprises has been found guilty of violating both the Watershed Protection Act and the Wetlands Protection Act, and has been assessed a penalty of up to $392,842 by the Attorney General. Municipalities have created similar problems through inadequate planning so it isn’t always developers.
In addition to MWRA funds for land acquisition, DWSP collaborates with non-profits and municipalities to buy significant parcels. Jonathan made note of federal tax deductions and state tax credits that create incentives for people to donate their land or sell it at a very low price.
Jonathan talked about the USDA’s Forest Legacy Program and DCR’s “Q2W” (Quabbin to Wachusett Mountain) FY 13 Forest Legacy Grant Application. It’s a large project involving 3275 acres, 23 land owners, 7 towns, 4 land trusts, 1 watershed group and DCR. Made up primarily from Conservation Restrictions and Watershed Preservation Restrictions, people will continue to own their land. Benefits of the project include increased biodiversity, water supply protection and recreation. Total project costs are $8,375,000.
DWSP has a substantial Watershed Preservation Restriction and Conservation Restriction Program involving approximately 100 properties. The WPR is a voluntary agreement between the landowner and DWSP. The landowner gives up certain permanent rights to their land thereby making them eligible for tax incentives and reduced property taxes. Passive recreation, hunting, fishing and forestry (in compliance with MA Forest Cutting Practices Act) are allowed. At the start of each WPR, a baseline report is prepared with photos, maps and narrative. The purpose of the report is to provide a baseline from which future changes to the land can be measured. DRC monitors the property by staying in contact with the landowners and walking the property. Maintaining good working relationships helps prevent violations and avoids conflict if the property changes hands.
A question of water quality monitoring at Wachusett was raised. There is extensive monitoring at Wachusett to prevent water quality from deteriorating.
Jonathan noted that in 2010, DCR won the national award from the American Water Association for their exemplary source water protection program. He spoke of the need to continue acquiring land.
Steve mentioned that the DCR program is recognized nationwide and that the MWRA gets questions about it from across the country.
Whit asked about taking land by eminent domain and CR violations. Some land was taken by eminent domain in the 1980s when developers owned land on the waterfront. DCR has not had to litigate any CR violations.
Jonathan’s full presentation is available on the WSCAC website. Click on “Presentations”.
SWMI Discussion with Julia Blatt
Lexi began the SWMI conversation by reminding members of the four SWMI questions the WSCAC Executive Committee posed to the committee in April 2011 and the responses from members. She read the questions and summarized the answers. Comments on the SWMI draft framework are due by April 6th. WSCAC can send its own letter and/or sign onto the MA Rivers Alliance letter. Steve Estes-Smargiassi is meeting with MWRA senior management and passing on WSCAC’s thoughts on SWMI.
Julia Blatt began her discussion with background information on what has occurred with the SWMI over the last two years. She noted that two WSCAC members are on the SWMI committee – Martin Pillsbury and Margaret Van Deusen as well as former WSCAC member Kerry Mackin. The SWMI process is shaded largely, she believes, in response to the potential for litigation. Under the Water Management Act (WMA) the state wanted a system that was more predictable and reliable to reduce lawsuits. Two years ago EOEEA looked at redefining Safe Yield and developing streamflow criteria or standards.
A multi-stakeholder committee of roughly 60 people with two sub-committees was formed. With 60 people it is easy for the process to become paralyzed. The environmentalists disagreed on anything the water suppliers wanted and vice versa. Getting consensus on anything but streamflow categories for and biological stream categories was nearly impossible.
SWMI is currently focused on flow categories because that is what falls under the purview of the WMA.
Looking from the environmental side Julia feels there are two ways to look at SWMI and judge it. First, is this what we want and is it the best way to protect rivers? Second, is it better than what we have now? The stakeholders are a diverse group – environmentalists, land-use groups, watershed groups, etc. – but most are saying this is better than what we had. However, universally among the groups, everyone is saying this is not what we should have and we can do better.
SWMI is under siege and parts of it like Safe Yield are just terrible. On the other hand, water suppliers are saying the science is terrible and not a good predictor of reality. In particular, they do not like the Fish and Flow study prepared by USGS and DFG. The Nature Conservancy is looking into this. However, for many environmentalists, the science is good.
The state brought together a smaller group to try to work out some of the differences found in the larger SWMI group. MA Rivers is worried that the DEP will not implement SWMI well in a forceful way. Water suppliers are worried the DEP will over implement it and strangle economic development. This is the current situation.
Some of the major flaws in SWMI start with the way DEP looked at Safe Yield. The method used makes the Safe Yield number completely irrelevant in just about every watershed. The analysis assumes people withdraw water in the same proportion from month to month. That is absurd on its face. The Safe Yield is not safe and it doesn’t have an accurate environmental component. There are people that feel all of SWMI is a failure because of this.
The way DEP would implement streamflow criteria is generally a system where the more water you take the more mitigation you have to do – this applies to permits only NOT registrations. Two problem areas are the baseline you measure from and the mitigation commensurate with impact. Mitigation hasn’t been defined yet in SWMI and this is very important. Current SWMI calculations suggest 8% more than existing permitted flow as the starting baseline. The net result is that most communities will be able to use more water and potentially slip down a Flow Category before any mitigation kicks in. Julia would like to see the baseline and mitigation issues resolved. The SWMI framework needs work.
The USGS study is an amazing tool. It allows DEP make different rules in different basins depending on the needs of a given stream. Unfortunately, Safe Yield is on too gross a scale both geographically and seasonally. It’s useless the way it is and a bitter disappointment as a water management tool. Twenty percent of sub-basins in the state already have severely depleted streams.
Julia did note that Safe Yield could offer good protection for Western Mass because there is less impact now but potentially more impact in the future. MA Rivers Alliance fought hard to include wording in the framework that says if you are currently withdrawing water from a sub-basin with a Tier 4 or 5 rated stream you need to do a plan to improve the flow in your basin and implement it.
Lexi noted that the information from Julia gives WSCAC a good starting point to discuss SWMI as it relates to MWRA. SWMI may compel communities to MWRA water. Julia asked if the MWRA will meet people half way if they cannot afford MWRA water. Steve noted that from the MWRA’s perspective it is better to sell water than not sell it. He also noted that DEP is not prepared to staff the programs they have laid out and that worries the MWRA. Adequate staffing is a big concern to everyone. Several people expressed concerned about spotty, inconsistent, or one-size-fits-all implementation as a result of DEP’s understaffing.
Steve Estes-Smarigassi opined that the opportunities for a successful outcome would have been greater if the SWMI project had a broader scope.
Whit asked if an environmental bond bill could include money to be allocated and used to mitigate the cost of joining the MWRA water system.
The MWRA board is looking at ways to reduce to cost of entry into the water system.
Julia again said there are abject failures alongside good things in the SWMI framework. Paul Lauenstein noted that a 20-year timeframe for adaptive management is too long. A longer discussion on water policies and SWMI ensued. Some WMA permits have restrictions and Steve mentioned that there are ways the state could write permits to better address current water use problems.
Someone asked if the regulations could be written in a different way to assuage the water supplier’s concerns about fish and flow. Julia said she did not think that could be accomplished. The water suppliers are saying the scientific model is not valid. If the communities don’t have basic confidence in the model then they will keep going to court to challenge it. It was noted that most environmental regulations have some kind of variance or rebuttable process but so far there are none in the SWMI framework.
Steve said the MWRA is largely not affected by the SWMI framework. Finding a way to make it financially easier for communities to join the MWRA was discussed again. There would be environmental benefits to communities coming into the MWRA but the MWRA does not want to harm existing users. The framework for looking at local sources is very different now that it was 20 or 25 years ago thus illustrating that as circumstances change, the views of the MWRA and others agencies have changed.
Previous versions of Safe Yield have been litigated and there is concern that the new Safe Yield will be litigated. The new Safe Yield methodology does not meet the Water Management Act requirements it was setup to meet. Neither water suppliers nor environmental groups appear to be happy with the framework.
A motion was made and seconded to vote on the nomination of Kimberly Noake MacPhee from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) to the WSCAC committee. The motion was approved unanimously.
Introduction-Whitney Beals, WSCAC Chair
FEATURED PRESENTATION: Jonathan Yeo, Director of the DCR Division of Water Supply Protection and staff will discuss land acquisition in the watersheds.
SWMI discussion: Materials will be sent out prior to the meeting
WSCAC Briefs: Voting on the membership of Kimberly Noake MacPhee, FRCOG
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THE APRIL MEETING WILL BE A JOINT MEETING ON THE MWRA BUDGET WITH WAC, ON FRIDAY, APRIL 6, 2012 AT THE METROPOLITAN AREA PLANNING COMMISSION IN BOSTON.
Introduction-Whitney Beals, WSCAC Chair
MWRA Energy Overview-MWRA staff
Tour-Dave Coppes, Director of Western Operations
Paul Lauenstein – WSCAC, NepRWA, Alice Clemente – WSCAC, Stephen Estes-Smargiassi – MWRA, Todd Rhodes – Sustainable Lexington, Robert Moore - Retired Chief Adm. Officer, Metro. District of Hartford, Dona Motts – WSCAC, LWV MA, Paul Brinkman – WSCAC, Whit Beals – WSCAC Chair, Maggie Atanasov- MWRA Adv. Board, Lexi Dewey - WSCAC staff, Michele Drury – DCR, Jerry Eves – WSCAC, TU
WSCAC Business Items
Lexi noted the need for a head count for the February 14th WSCAC meeting that includes a tour of the Carroll Water Treatment Plant. She reminded members that WAC will be touring the Pellet Plant in Quincy on March 6th. Please email the office if you plan to attend. The facility is owned by the MWRA but operated by a private company.
Lexi informed everyone that WSCAC voting on membership would take place after presentations by Robert Moore and Steve Estes-Smargiassi. She mentioned that hard copies of MWRA Staff Summaries, WSCAC letters, and Alexandra Dawson’s obituary were on the table for review.
Whit Beals introduced Robert Moore and noted that they worked in parallel many years ago. Bob noted that he was involved with WSCAC in the 1970’s when the MDC was interested in diverting a portion of the Connecticut River as an additional source of water for Boston.
Robert Moore’s Presentation
In 1929, the Hartford Water Works became the Metropolitan District through an Act of the Legislature. It was chartered as a “Municipal Corporation” with broad regional authorities and responsibilities enacted under State Statute. Charter provisions included: Provide and maintain the water supply, serve towns within a 20 mile radius of Hartford, provide and maintain sewer systems, construct and maintain highways, public works and hydroelectric facilities, provide recreation, acquire real estate, collect taxes and issue debt.
Currently the MDC supplies water to 101,000 customers and 400,000 people. Eight member towns in the Greater Hartford area are served in addition to water service to portions of 5 additional towns. At this time, the MDC has a water supply through the Barkhamsted Reservoir with a capacity of 30.3 billion gallons and the Nepaug Reservoir with a capacity of 9.5 billion gallons. There are 1, 570 miles of pipe, 17 pump stations and 3 water treatment facilities. Of the 31,000 acres of property owned by the MDC, 28,000 acres are watershed lands. The District also maintains over 80 acres of riverfront parklands and 4 miles of trails. Bob’s presentation included photos of several reservoirs and dams in the MDC with the first earthen dams at West Hartford Reservoirs under construction from 1864-1895. Seven additional dams were built from 1915-1969.
Bob noted that while expansion of the District was the focus early on, by the 1970s and 1980s, expansion had slowed and water consumption began to decrease. There was no preventive plan with regard to asset management of all the infrastructure owned and operation by the MDC. If something broke, it was fixed. There were six older dams and Bob began a study of these and the potential for flooding. Problems were identified and a preventive asset management plan was established. Currently the MDC has a 5-year program for dam management and repair as well as a land acquisition program.
Slides of the dams and reservoirs in the water system were shown and Bob discussed the series of reservoirs in detail. Just as the MDC in Massachusetts considered diverting a portion of the Connecticut River, the MDC in Hartford has considered diverting water from the Farmington River. Between 10 and 20 million gallons a day of water could be taken and still meet the legal requirements of the National Wild & Scenic designation of the Farmington.
Acquiring more land is seen as crucial to protecting the water supply. Some redundancy is built into the system and the water is filtered. More redundancy and pipe replacement is planned for the future. The MDC has reviewed the age (average is 56 years) of the 1570 miles of water mains in the system as well as the soil type pipes are buried in. Both the type of pipe (cast iron, reinforced concrete) and soil composition (fine vs. coarse till) play a significant role in the breakage rates. Phase I with an unlimited budget scenario has a 5 year schedule for water main replacement. Total cost is estimated at $385 or $77 million per year and 147 miles or 29 miles per year.
The MDC also considers the critical role and location of pipes was when determining which ones to replace – i.e. does the pipe serve a hospital or other crucial business or school. Acceptable levels of breakage and timelines for pipe replacement are determined. Steve Estes-Smargiassi asked about catastrophic failure versus leak detection. Bob said any pipe that needed to be dug up and repaired was considered breakage. Steve noted that nationally they know that pipes installed in the 1880s will be in service longer than those installed in the 1950s and 1960s. The 1950s and 1960s probably had a combination of bad construction and poor quality pipe materials. The MDC study found that 6% of current pipes should be replaced immediately and another 11% are near the replacement timeframe. The cost in the first 5 years (beginning in 2009) for pipe replacement was projected to be $500 million. The MDC has completed three years of a forty-five year program of capital infrastructure repairs and maintenance.
Bob noted that sewer funding is through a tax on member towns whereas the water system is funded through water rates. While water rates had been the lowest in the state, a sewer service charge was added to water bills. This has basically doubled the water rates due to the addition of the sewer service charge. This change was made because the towns did not want to see the cost of the sewer as a tax. Steve Estes-Smargiassi asked if the MDC had municipal lien powers and Bob said they do.
The vagaries of the law and funding availability for infrastructure improvements were discussed. Bob and Steve both mentioned that priorities and funding don’t always seem to make sense.
Bob touched on the existence of private water companies within the MDC radius and noted that the MDC has added numerous small connections and taken over supplying water to many of these tiny areas. Current demand is the lowest it has been – the peak was in the 1980s – so the MDC has plenty of water to meet demand.
Bob wrapped up his presentation by noting that the MDC funds the maintenance for Riverfront Recapture, a non-profit organization. This is funded via a surcharge on water bills. Bob noted that the MDC has hydropower at its’ Colebrook facility but it has not been cost effective yet. Paul Lauenstein asked about a radio metering system. Bob said Hartford has a mostly drive-by network with some fixed. Most customers are being read quarterly but some are monthly.
The capital program is still being funded and the debt has not driven the water rates so high that people are complaining. If the MDC can get through the first few years of the program, costs will decrease thereafter and the reduced cost should be fundable. Bob noted that the MDC followed the MWRA model for the CSO program in terms of management. It worked for temporarily but the differences between the two systems came into play and the MDC changed to a method better suited to the District.
The MDC believes that maintenance and repair of water and sewer infrastructure can be managed as long as funding is available.
You can view Bob’s presentation at http://www.mwra.state.ma.us/02org/html/wscac.htm
Steve Estes-Smargiassi’s Presentation on Water Use
Steve began the presentation by noting that last year was a bit dry at the beginning and wet at the end of the year. Last year’s water use was 195 mgd or about the same as two years ago. The 5-year running average is still showing a downward trend and we expect to see this average drop to 200 mgd within the next year or two.
Steve brought graphs that show spill rates, releases and water supplied. The MWRA spilled for over 100 days during 2011 at a rate of 158 mgd. Basically, the same amount of water was released down the Swift as the system removed for water supply distribution. Paul Lauenstein asked about a dip in 2003 and Steve said it was related to weather – 2003 was a mini drought year.
Withdrawals include water Worcester takes for their water system and water sold to customers. The City of Boston uses less water than at any time back to the mid 1970s. Although Boston is a larger city now, the water usage may even be lower than the water used in 1894 – MWRA will have that information for certain in another year or two.
Daily demand for fully supplied communities (roughly 90% of water supplied) shows both seasonal peaks and lower winter demand. November to March is considered base demand. We have seen a 3 mgd or a 1.8% drop in base demand every year for the last decade. People are more efficient in how they use water. About half the toilets you see in the market are 1.2 - 1.3 gallons/flush. All the washing machines on the market are high efficiency units. The same trends hold true for dishwashers. We expect to see a decline in base demand for some time to come because there continues to be opportunities for increased efficiency.
Seasonal water demand is variable and is roughly 8-10% of total water use. This is much different than what you see in California, Arizona or Texas where seasonal outdoor use is 50% of total water use. As an aside, Steve pointed out that the lowest demand day of the year is typically Christmas Day.
The group was interested in graphs showing Quabbin levels over the last few decades. Steve highlighted drought years where the reservoir level dipped and wet years where it refilled. He noted that as Quabbin fills, the MWRA doesn’t need to take lower quality water from the Ware River. Recently, more Quabbin water is being tranferred to the Wachusett for water quality purposes. Quabbin water is naturally filtered for a much longer time than the Wachusett. Reservoir transfers are managed weekly and in wet years it is more difficult to transfer from Quabbin to Wachusett due to the potential for flooding in adjacent areas. Most spills are at Quabbin but occasionally Wachusett spills.
Steve spoke briefly about the last few sections of the Hultman redundancy project and connections with the MetroWest tunnel. We are trying to accelerate the project because there is currently no redundancy in the event of a pipe break. The contractor has been working diligently and the mild winter has been helpful to the accelerated timeline of the project. Two other pipes with couplings like the one that broke will be replaced this spring – much earlier than originally planned.
Steve’s final slides showed ongoing work at the Blue Hills covered storage as well as work on the Northern and Southern spines. Other slides showed some new butterfly valves, a large boulder in one of the trenches, and an older poor quality non-redundant main serving the northern part of the system. Whit asked Steve whether the MWRA exercises (i.e. tests) their valves. Steve said that with the exception of non-redundant pipelines they try to exercise their valves every year.
Steve wrapped up with a couple of interesting items including the relocation of a meter that was located on a Route 93 ramp. The new meter is now located in the median and no longer requires a police detail to shut down the ramp during repairs. Microbial rules are changing and that is impacting MWRA sampling. Compliance with the rules is also changing but this hasn’t presented a problem for MWRA. In other parts of the country, compliance changes may be an issue.
Lexi asked Steve for a quick update on the Spot Pond pipeline in Stoneham. The MWRA needs to provide redundancy to this pipeline and the best route has been determined to be through Stoneham. Town officials and the MWRA are working through differences to try to come to an agreement.
A motion to appoint Paul Brinkman to the Executive Committee was made. The motion was seconded, a vote taken (unanimous), and Paul was appointed to the Executive Committee.
Lexi noted that Kimberly Noake MacPhee is under consideration for WSCAC membership. The vote on her appointment will be delayed until the MWRA receives her resume information.
A motion was made to reappoint the WSCAC Executive Committee with the exception of Dona Motts who is resigning from said committee. The motion was made, seconded, a vote taken and the Executive Committee was unanimously approved. Whit reminded everyone that Dona’s resignation means there is an opening on the Executive Committee if anyone is interested in serving.
Introduction-Whitney Beals, WSCAC Chair
Presentation: Robert Moore, former chief administrative officer for the Metropolitan District of Hartford, CT. Mr. Moore will be talking about long term water supply planning, asset and infrastructure management and water resource issues.
MWRA Briefs: Steve Estes-Smargiassi
Nomination and voting on exec. committee, membership, and chair including the nomination on Kimberly Noake MacPhee to replace Tom Miner representing FRCOG. Paul Brinkman will be replacing Jeanne Richardson on the exec. comm. – see Article II of the WSCAC by-laws on next page for more information on the process.
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THE NEXT WSCAC MEETING WILL BE ON FEBRUARY 14TH AT THE CARROLL WATER TREATMENT PLANT IN MARLBOROUGH. A TOUR OF THE SOLAR FIELD AND TREATMENT FACILITIES IS PLANNED. PLEASE RSVP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE SO WE KNOW HOW MANY WILL BE ATTENDING.
Stephen Greene - WAC
Stephen Greene, WAC Chair, opened the meeting and welcomed everyone. All attendees stated their name and affiliation.
WSCAC Business Items
Lexi noted that WSCAC needed to vote on approving the September 15th WSCAC summary. Dona Mott moved that WSCAC approve the summary and Paul Lauenstein seconded the motion. The September 15th summary were then approved by the WSCAC Committee. Lexi mentioned that she had copies of the revised WSCAC brochure if anyone wanted to review it after the meeting. Finally, Lexi asked that any WSCAC member who hadn’t done so take a copy of the Mass. Conflict of Interest Summary and acknowledge receipt of the summary.
WAC Business Items and Opening Remarks
WAC business will be taken care of at the next WAC meeting on January 6th. The January 6th meeting is on system expansion. The Chair recognized two new WAC members – Maggie Atanasov and Beth Miller who was not present. Stephen then introduced Dr. Austin Polebitski from the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UMASS to speak about climate change and the Connecticut River Basin. Austin received his PhD and Masters from the University of Washington.
Highlights of Austin’s Polebitski’s Presentation
Austin gave background information on the UMASS professors and graduate students involved in climate change, water management in the CT River Basin and related studies. He also spoke about work on the valuation of climate change and potential impacts on the MWRA water supply.
Austin began the presentation by showing 30-year graphs plotting changes in temperature and precipitation. The graphs show a change from the historic period 1970 -2000 to the 30-year period 2035-2065 assuming three different emission scenarios. Without a real pattern, a 3 degree Centigrade shift in temperature shows an increase in average annual precipitation.
The White River Basin in Northern Vermont is a very large naturally flowing basin and the use of this basin allows for a very good calibration of the UMass model. They are seeing an increase in warming with more precipitation falling as rain and less as snow. The water supply impact of these shifts in hydrology are being investigated.
A typical climate change analysis goes as follows: Without getting into the statistical work behind downscaling to a watershed, temperature and precipitation readings are taken, processed through a hydrology model for a basin which generating a streamflow that reflects changes under climate scenarios. The streamflows are put through optimization and simulation models to get a better understanding of the effects of climate change on our systems and watersheds.
So far, none of these projections suggest cooling or stable temperatures. The models show increasing temperatures and all but three scenarios show an increase in precipitation.
The MWRA reservoir system according to the model is able to meet a supply goal of 300 mgd 100% of the time. Between 300-350 mgd, ability drops below 100% to 95%. One concern the MWRA has is whether the positive effects of increased precipitation are outweighed by the negative effects of evapotranspiration. However the models don’t seem to indicate that.
The belief is that there will be more variability in extreme events (intense rain and flooding etc.) but it will be another decade or so before the climate scientists have models that provide detailed information on the impact of those events. Ed Bretschneider asked about the confidence level of the statistical analysis. Austin said more work needs to be done because the amount and effects of precipitation at a more detailed level are still a challenge for these models.
Austin noted that the USGS and the Dept. of Interior will be funding the new Northeast Climate Science Center at UMASS with other partners.
Connecticut River Basin
UMASS is working with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the US Army Core of Engineers (USACE) on the Connecticut River (CT River) project to create a basin-wide decision support tool to evaluate environmental and economic outcomes based on different management scenarios.
From New Hampshire to Long Island Sound, the CT River has 11,000 miles of drainage with 44 major tributaries regulated by 70 large dams. Over three million people reside in the basin. The TNC began this project in 2004. By 2007 TNC and the USACE developed the CT River Ecosystem Flow Plan. Currently, three models are being used to study the CT River.
Austin explained in simplified terms how models are constructed using constraints and parameters. He also provided insight into how they are structured with tradeoff curves to achieve objectives utilizing penalties and weightings.
The optimization model for the project is almost finalized. Austin expects this tool will be used for FERC relicensing. The USACE may also use the model at some of their facilities. The question of whether the model could be used to evaluate the removal of small dams in the Northeast was raised. Austin said that the model only evaluates large geographical areas so it would not be suitable for this use.
A question on the effects of climate change and stormwater run-off was posed. The climate change scientists need more time to improve the modeling of extreme events before good answers to these questions are available.
Austin’s presentation is available on the WSCAC website. http://www.mwra.state.ma.us/02org/html/wscac.htm
Highlights of Kathy Baskin’s Presentation on the Climate Change Adaptation Report
Legislation required the Secretary of EOEEA to convene a committee of experts to prepare a report evaluating adaptation strategies to address climate change. The committee included 35 members of varying disciplines that were subsequently divided into 5 subcommittees.
Kathy addressed the current conditions, the information gathering process for the report, observed changes and potential next steps. She clarified the terms mitigation versus adaptation. The MA Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2008 was primarily focused on mitigating the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. A three sentence piece on adaption was added. Adaptation is process of getting ready for a change.
The report process started by developing a baseline with the goal being a mitigation plan in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 10-25% by 2020 and to continue the reduction to 80% by 2050.
The five subcommittees came up with similar strategies. An example included collecting LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data to get high resolution elevation information. The committee considered what short term and long term meant for infrastructure. They also considered business and agricultural needs, coastal zones factors, insurance issues, and rezoning as flood plains change. Identifying the most vulnerable areas in the state was a priority addressed in the report.
Additional items discussed included the fact that 100 year floods may have to be reframed because they will occur more frequently. Sea level rise is a major factor due to wide-ranging potential coastal impacts resulting in significant potential effects on the economy and tourism. Diseases carried by insects are of concern given that certain species may no longer die off due to warmer winters.
The range of predictions say we will continue to see temperature increases, precipitation increases, and sea level rises up to several feet (depending on the model used), and increased droughts.
Observed changes include the following:
Based on these predictions, the experts were asked to pinpoint vulnerabilities and strategies for potential implementation.
MA Fish and Game developed a Wildlife Action Plan with a climate change lens. The Coastal Zone Management website worked on an analysis (Storm Smart Coast) of which areas might be underwater due to sea level rise. The Department of Transportation was not originally engaged in the climate change issue but has more recently done a lot of work on determining flood prone highways. EOEEA staff is brainstorming on next steps.
A question was asked on how the work in the Climate Change Adaptation Report can be used for streamflow criteria and other state water policies. Kathy said the science is not necessarily downscaled to Massachusetts or Boston. However, they are aware of the need to put in a buffer particularly when doing withdrawals from groundwater wells. Climate change has not been specifically addressed in Safe Yield determinations and streamflow criteria, but it has been considered. Water Management Act permits last 20 years with 5 year reviews so there is an opportunity to readjust over time. Kathy feels there is an opportunity to infuse climate change information into state water policies.
A question was raised whether there is any work to bring climate change forecasts into the MAPC build-out studies that were done several years ago. The planning agency is using the work in priority growth areas to determine the effects of future development on water and wastewater systems.
Kathy’s presentation is available at the WSCAC website. Click on presentations. http://www.mwra.state.ma.us/02org/html/wscac.htm
Steve Estes-Smargiassi's Presentation
Steve noted that the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant was one of the first in the country designed and constructed to address the potential effects of climate change. The elevation of the plant was raised to account for sea level rise and the ability to push water out of the outflow pipe.
In September the Town of Canton, a partially supplied MWRA community had test results showing coliform and E-coli resulting in a boil water order. Under the Total Coliform Rule, detection of coliform bacteria is used as an indicator of potential problems within the distribution system. Any detection of total coliform requires additional testing for E. coli which are present in the feces of warm blooded animal. Multiple E. coli detections or E. coli in combination with total coliform positives is seen as an indicator that the distribution system may not be sanitary and requires immediate action from the water supplier. Sanitary defects were discovered in one of the water storage tanks. The MWRA provided technical assistance and disinfection equipment to assist by adding additional chlorine. At DEP’s request, the Authority also assisted the Town of Burlington by providing a “peer review” of the Town’s response actions due to the detection of coliform and e-coli.
Steve spoke briefly about the work being done on redundancy in the water system, specifically the Hultman Aqueduct. Slides showed where the work is currently being done and where the pipe break occurred last year. The Hultman is currently out of service as a result of this project. This is somewhat scary because there is no redundancy while it is under construction. The project is ahead of schedule as a result of relatively inexpensive suggestions and longer working hours. The Authority hopes to have the Hultman back on line before next summer.
The MWRA has identified areas in the water system that have couplings similar to the one that failed last year. Steve was asked about the causes of the water main break and he referred people to 2 reports on the MWRA website for more information.
Testing results for water corrosivity (i.e. testing for lead and copper in the water) continue to decline. DEP recently approved moving MWRA from semi-annual to annual testing. It’s expected that EPA will also approve this change.
MWRA is planning to switch the primary laboratory method used for routine analysis of drinking water bacterial samples collected under the Total Coliform Rule from the Membrane Filtration test to the Colilert-18 test because this will give reliable bacteria results faster. Use of the Colilert-18 test will provide confirmed bacteria results within 18 hours, rather than the 48-96 hours required under the current method. Before moving to this method, the MWRA spoke to their colleagues around the country. No one who has switched to this new method has switched back to the older method. It is anticipated that this change will occur in early January 2012.
The new wind turbine is doing well but energy generation is up and down depending on the winds. The hydro. turbine in Weston is more consistent.
Steve was asked whether the MWRA is doing any long term planning on sea level rise. The Authority is doing work as it relates to its coastal facilities potentially affected by sea level rise. Steve noted that there are two issues relating to Deer Island – coast armoring and the relative height between the outflow pipe and sea levels.
Please note the meeting start time will be 1030 AM
Introduction-Stephen Greene, WAC Chair
THE NEXT WSCAC MEETING WILL BE HELD ON DECEMBER 15TH AT 10:00 A.M. IN SOUTHBOROUGH
Katherine Dunphy, Chair of the MWRA Advisory Board, opened the meeting and introduced Richard Sullivan, EOEEA Secretary and Chairman of the MWRA Board of Directors. The remarks by Secretary Sullivan as well as those of Fred Laskey, MWRA Executive Director, follow.
A Summary of Secretary Sullivan’s Presentation-Where We are Headed at EOEEA
Secretary Sullivan emphasized his 13 year mayoral background and opined that the best decisions are made at the local level. People need to consider where they get and how they use energy. Massachusetts residents spend $22 billion on energy annually. $18 billion or 80 % of that money not only leaves the Commonwealth but also the country. We want to utilize clean energy alternatives and recapture that $18 billion.
The Patrick administration has made an unprecedented commitment to land preservation and conservation in Massachusetts including lands for recreation, farms, open space, and wildlife habitats.
The MWRA Board of Directors has made it a priority to look at system expansion and sustainable water management. We need to balance community growth with protecting the basins.
The Secretary was asked about DCR. The DCR budget is stable but down from where it was in FY2009. Staff reductions from attrition resulted in a significant loss of experience. We cannot continue do more with less, we’ve done that so now we must do less with less. We need to be smart and strategic with our resources. As a result we have closed some satellite facilities and some of the staff are working in clusters rather than being assigned to a single park.
The Governor has made a commitment to DCR infrastructure. We are committed to supporting the beaches as well as the 25 “iconic” parks that play a role in our economy and tourism industry.
The Secretary was asked about the year and a half old Sustainable Water Management Initiative and said we are coming to the end of that process and hopefully reaching a consensus. We are trying to come up with a reasonable and sensible policy that does not burden communities and at the same time addresses the environmental issues of stressed basins.
The issue of energy efficient light bulbs was raised. Manufacturers have stopped making some of the less efficient bulbs so switching over is not always a choice but a necessity. People don’t think about this in their day to day lives but federal rules may mandate changes. The state itself is not planning to mandate changes but rather encourage changes by getting information out to cities, towns and citizens.
A question was raised about water and sewer infrastructure getting lost in the shuffle. Expenditures on roads and bridges are more visible to citizens and seem to be more easily accepted.
The Secretary suggested that water, sewer, and electricity are taken for granted. People expect the water to flow when the tap is turned on just as they expect the light to come on at the flip of a switch. Water and sewer infrastructure isn’t as visible as much of it is buried underground. It’s easier to get approval for expenditures on bridges and roads that citizens drive daily. We need to continue talking about water infrastructure and making investments.
A Summary of Fred Laskey’s Presentation on Challenges Facing the MWRA
By far the biggest challenge this year is the ongoing repair and rehabilitation of the Lower Hultman Aqueduct. This is an 18-month redundancy project that is expected to conclude in the spring of 2012. While this project is under construction we are in weakened position with fewer backup options. Once it’s complete we will have full redundancy in that portion of the system.
Another current issue is less than anticipated use of the pipeline assistance program. This may just be a reflection of the economic times but it will be a concern if it turns out to be a long-term trend that towns are not updating and repairing their infrastructure.
The treatment of sludge with biochemicals is a new technology the MWRA is looking into. There is an important strategic decision to be made on the cost versus the benefit of the different ways to deal with sludge.
We have a program to increase the real-time monitoring of water quality. The number of locations, number of triggers to look at, and what to do with the resulting information are all currently under consideration. We do/will monitor the temperature, the Ph, the cloudiness, and other more technical measures. This is not an easy project to implement. Particularly challenging is what we will do with the information we get; what does an operator do at 2 a.m. if some aspect of the water has changed?
Two studies are underway: MWRA staffing and IT. These studies should give us a road map for going forward. We expect that the studies will recommend changes.
We have excess capacity in our water system and are having active discussions with North Reading. In addition, Ashland, Holbrook, and the potential Mohegan Sun casino, potentially in Palmer are all considering the use of MWRA water.
Communications are an issue for the MWRA. Our cell phone coverage has limitations when phones are used underground. When problems arise, we need to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively. Again we get back to the cost versus the benefit of switching to another carrier. Deer Island communications went down when the one main line coming into the station broke down. The Chelsea facility has 89 different T1 lines that come into it and then go out to other facilities. If the Chelsea line came down, the problem would spread from there. New technology - iPhones etc. – is something we need to look into.
The 2 ½ % water and sewer rate initiative petition is a big problem – both directly and indirectly. The indirect problem is in the form of a potential negative ad campaign focusing on the MWRA – i.e. promoting the initiative by attacking the MWRA.
The Charlestown wind turbine is currently being installed. It is 360 feet tall and will produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity. Its presence will change the skyline of Boston. This project utilized stimulus money so payback will begin as soon as it’s up and running.
Mr. Laskey was asked about the MWRA public relations program versus proposition 2 ½%. Fred noted that If people understand what they are getting for their money, they usually accept the cost. He speaks frequently to tell the MWRA story.
This concluded the comments of Secretary Sullivan and Mr. Laskey.
The meeting began with a presentation and slide show on the history of the Water Works museum by Marcis Kempe, Director of Operations Support in the Field Operations Department at the MWRA.
Marcis noted that the museum focuses on the period around 1900. The building itself was built in 1887. In the late 1800s the importance of public works was emphasized by the quality of the architecture – it’s a beautiful building. Major decisions made regarding the water supply were made in this building.
To give a complete picture, Marcis traced the history of Boston water beginning with the founding of the city in 1630. The location for Boston was chosen because of its water supply – it was the place of a good spring. This is the first water works in the American Colonies. Elsewhere people carried water in buckets but in Boston they built wooden pipes, buried them underground, and piped water into people’s homes.
As the need for more water and better water arose the system became a private for profit venture. This was not water for everyone; it was basically for the rich. Water availability determined where people lived and worked – you needed to consider the elevation of the land and the quality of the water. As need increased the Cochituate Aqueduct came in and the Chestnut Hill Reservoir was built by clearing out an old swamp. A pipe was built down Beacon Street to provide water.
Boston and New York were pioneers on getting water to their cities. Boston chose Long Pond as its source of water. As more and more towns were annexed to Boston there was need for more water and in 1870 Boston started using pumps. The first pumps in the United States were paddle driven - steam came later. When the great fire of Boston occurred lessons were learned. They had trouble fighting the fire because of there was no storage in the system and pipe diameters were too small.
By 1887 water use had skyrocketed and the Chestnut Hill station, i.e. this building, was constructed. Water quality was a major concern for the Board of Health, particularly in the outlying areas that were supplied by the Boston water works. By 1895 it was clear that water borne diseases were a result of contamination from sewage. Thus, the Metropolitan District was formed and better water was distributed to all the towns.
By then the Sudbury Aqueduct was built. Other aqueduct lines came in and more pumps were added. A question of how this infrastructure was funded was raised and Marcis replied that Boston funded all of its own capital improvements but it had a separate water fund. Boston water works had to justify their improvements and was the biggest single infrastructure investment in Boston in the middle of the 1800s. Bonds were written supported by the State.
Triple expansion pumps were used. Wheelbarrows of coal were hauled to the boilers. Contracts were written with efficiency requirements on engines and you didn’t get paid if the specs weren’t met.
When technology to bring higher water sources into the system became available Quabbin and Wachusett were added to the system. Coal was replaced by oil for the engines but going to gravity fed water with the higher sources of Quabbin and Wachusett saved considerable money.
Moving back in time again, from 1848 on they were draining watersheds like the South Natick and the dumping of sewage was a problem. There were rampant epidemics of typhoid and cholera in places like Lowell. There were 100 deaths per 100,000 associated with water borne illnesses.
Steam engines enabled poor choices as far as water was concerned. It was a learning process to drive for better solutions and better quality water. They studied the Sudbury reservoir and learned from that. They studied filtration and storage retention and realized the importance of both for “cleaning” the water. Much was learned from the Mystic where in the 1860s they were pumping water from the river at the lowest point. There were 22 tanneries up river of where they were pumping. Water borne diseases drove improvement in water supplies. New water supplies were chosen for water quality.
The first state wide testing of rivers began and Boston’s philosophy was to choose unpolluted water supplies. Most other areas tried water treatment which, at the time, was sketchy as people were patenting some questionable treatments. Chlorination was discovered in the 1908 and first used in New Jersey. It was not a complete solution but enabled the use of questionable water.
Back in Boston, Whipple (and Fitzgerald) started testing for water borne diseases in the 1880s in a tiny laboratory. They cataloged what was in the water and what should be avoided. Fitzgerald made day to day adjustments by shutting off reservoirs as necessary for algae blooms. Both men would go out to the water sources to look for the sources of pollution and try to find a way to clean it up. The tone was set here by Fitzgerald and their work affected choices on future reservoirs such as Wachusett and Quabbin.
Marcis then did a tour and in-depth explanation of the pumps and their cylinders that will not be detailed here.
The meeting was adjourned.
The July 21st WSCAC meeting will be a tour of the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum in Boston.
Marcis Kempe, Director of Operations Support in the Field Operations Department at the MWRA will give a tour of the museum from 10:00-12:00.
For additional information and directions please go to: www.waterworksmuseum.org
WSCAC does not have a scheduled meeting in August. Members are encouraged to attend the MWRA Advisory Board Field Trip on August 18th. This year’s trip is a cruise around Boston Harbor with lunch at Spectacle Island. The itinerary is attached. Please email the WSCAC office if you would like to attend.
The June 23rd WSCAC meeting began with a boat ride on the reservoir with Bill Pula and Clif Read. Afterward, lunch was served at the Blue Meadow Conference Center and the second half of the meeting began with guest Whit Sanford, former co-executive director of the CT River Watershed Council, talking about membership, visibility and identifying the message.
WSCAC Brochure – Whit Sanford presented her suggestions and ideas at length on the WSCAC brochure. A summary of her initial comments follows.
The discussion then opened up for comments from members. Dona Motts mentioned that WSCAC has open slots for legislators. Lexi noted the difficulty in getting legislators on board but said that we are trying to get Representative Anne Gobi as a WSCAC member. She also noted that Representative Steve Kulik recently resigned due to too many commitments and too little time.
Whitty acknowledged that there is a divide and vulcanization of Eastern and Western Mass., but feels there is now an opportunity for increased visibility for WSCAC and the MWRA because environmental issues are more highly accepted. She thinks Western Massachusetts communities might be ready to get involved with water systems and management and take pride in the quality of the water we provide. She suggested WSCAC do outreach to involve whole communities.
Lexi noted the negative impressions generated by recent reports on logging and forestry practices at Quabbin - particularly in Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett. She agreed that WSCAC can work on getting more information out to watershed communities.
Whitty sees an opportunity for DCR, MWRA, and WSCAC to tell the stories of scenic by-ways such as gate 31 where there is fishing access. Although not specifically a WSCAC mission, she felt it might bring the communities along and garner support. Lexi mentioned that many people still want more access to Quabbin so we would have to address the public’s perception of appropriate water supply recreation. She asked the committee for their opinions.
Paul Lauenstein thinks new members are vital to WSCAC and sees the brochure as a good tool to attract new members. He feels every member should carry a few brochures with them to hand out to potential members. Lexi would like to distribute the brochure to MWRA Advisory Board members and other watershed organizations. Paul Brinkman asked if we are we getting to the right people in the communities.
Whitty suggested WSCAC define the term “members”. Her definition of members includes WSCAC’s traditional view of members (as specified by our contract) as well as community members and legislators. She views a brochure as something for traditional members.
Dona suggested a tighter focus if we want to do community outreach – maybe starting with conservation commissions and others involved with the environment. Paul Brinkman suggested talking with planners or infrastructure people as well.
Steve Estes-Smargiassi made lengthy comments. A summary of those comments follows.
Paul Lauenstein noted, and several others agreed, that the legitimacy of WSCAC’s advice is related to its diversity. Paul reiterated that the brochure will be a very useful tool to help with recruiting members.
WSCAC Newsletter –
Lexi noted that we are planning to put out a seasonal WSCAC newsletter. Material in the newsletter will include information from meetings Lexi attends, news from the watersheds, a discussion of current issues, and our meeting schedule. Steve mentioned there may also be some work on the WSCAC website.
Paul Brinkman asked who receives the information electronically – specifically how large the distribution list is. The list is not as large as it could be so he asked if there was an easy way to have people to sign up for emails from us. Currently an individual or organization would have to email, call, or send us a request that they be added to our mailing list.
Dona noted she would prefer a hard copy mailed newsletter. Lexi pointed out the high cost of mailings and said we prefer to email but will send hard copies as requested. The group noted that email is the preferred method of distribution for most people. Alice noted that the summaries used to be mailed to over 200 people.
The discussion focused on email versus hard copy and the fact that preferences are largely age dependent. It was noted that there are audiences for both summaries and a newsletter. Whitty mentioned that knowing your different audiences, setting your priorities, and tailoring your distributions is important. Dona reminded the group that meeting summaries are a requirement of the WSCAC contract.
Dona feels WSCAC as a fully funded advisory committee has a different focus than CRWC. She suggested that focusing on where to find members and getting them on board is key and emphasized the importance of meeting summaries in keeping members abreast of current topics and issues.
Paul Lauenstein noted that to fill 30 or 40 seats we would probably need to contact several hundred people. Alice suggested we look into student interns to fill some slots and Lexi noted she is looking for interns at UMASS. Steve pointed out that if you want to utilize interns you need well defined short term projects for them to work on. The issues of concern to WSCAC today are more defuse long term projects that make it harder to utilize students. This also makes it harder to attract new members. Defuse long term projects aren’t as compelling and exciting as more short term immediate projects.
Future Meeting Topics -
Future meeting topics were reviewed for comment. Steve asked if there are topics missing that the MWRA should be addressing. Paul Lauenstein praised the quality of the presentations done at various recent MWRA meetings.
Paul suggested downstream releases should be reviewed and researched in light of the many changes that have occurred since the guidelines were determined. The MWRA Infrastructure Master Plan is not on the topics list but it will be added to it. Whit would like a 6-year look back at the Carroll Water Treatment Plant. He also asked if Pam Heidell could do a presentation on power generation now and in the future.
Whit asked about the Asian Long-Horned beetle and the Wachusett watershed. Steve said there are 2 or 3 areas in the watershed where clearing is occurring. They think the beetle is contained but are nervous about it. Steve suggested that this might be a good topic for a meeting. It was noted that although there maybe pests that are climate related, the Asian Long-Horned beetle is not here as a result of climate change.
Paul Lauenstein suggested several topics including:
Steve suggested the possibility of a presentation on the water redundancy projects. Paul Brinkman brought up the 2010 water main break. Steve noted that there are two reports on the web – one on the MWRA’s response to the break and the other the expert panel report on the causes of the break.
Sediment in the Charles was also discussed. The MWRA has agreed to work with the Weston Conservation Commission.
Whit asked about the Boston Harbor cleanup and whether anything has been done to highlight the economic benefit of it. Steve said a couple of people have looked at the project and its benefits. Several people noted positive economic and personal benefits such as people fishing, sailing and swimming in the Harbor.
Whitty stated that people identify with Quabbin and have a sense of place with it. She suggested that the economic benefits of Quabbin should be a topic of a meeting. Lexi mentioned the sometimes controversial line between recreation and water supply and reminded the group that many people in the area would like to utilize the Quabbin watershed more. The New England Scenic Trail spearheaded by the AMC is a prime example. She noted that it’s interesting that most of the people against the scenic trail were people living in the watershed and yet DCR has a mandate to encourage recreation.
Whitty suggested that the Quabbin visitors’ center would benefit from a few changes to better draw people in. Steve agreed it was a good point but noted that there are now two distinct entrances and many people never make it to the visitors’ center. Steve suggested that a WSCAC meeting be held at the WaterWorks Museum to compare and contrast this brand new museum with the Quabbin center.
Whitty again suggested that the WSCAC members determine what they want to accomplish with the brochure and outreach so the committee can move forward on it.
The meeting was adjourned.
Summary - Joint WAC/WSCAC Meeting
Kathy Soni, MWRA Budget Director and Tom Durkin, Treasurer, gave a very detailed and informative presentation titled, Fiscal Year 2012-Current Expense and Capital Improvement Budget Overviews to WAC and WSCAC members at MAPC in Boston on April 8th.
As all who were present can confirm, the subject is complex and far-reaching. Please use the following link to view the presentation for more detailed information and graphics: FY2010 CEB and CIP Overviews
As noted in the MWRA Staff Summary:
The largest component of the MWRA’s annual Current Expense Budget (CEB) is the cost associated with the capital finance program. In the Proposed FY12 CEB, capital finance costs account for approximately 60% of the total budget. The capital finance portion of the CEB will continue to increase until it accounts for approximately 64% of the total budget in 2021. These increases to debt service expenses are the result of the MWRA’s 5.8 billion in outstanding debt necessitated by capital improvements to the water and wastewater systems.
Kathy Soni and Tom Durkin’s presentation was extremely helpful in creating a picture of the MWRA’s financial structure, monetary policies in use, upcoming costs and projects, and a forecast of the Authority’s focus in the years ahead.
Agenda - WSCAC Meeting
Presentation: MWRA Budget Update and Challenges
The next WSCAC meeting will be Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at the MWRA Facilities in Southborough. Beth Lambert from the Division of Ecological Restoration will present several dam removal projects and Linda Hutchins from DCR will give an update on the Sustainable Water Management Initiative.
Agenda - WSCAC Meeting
Introduction-Whitney Beals, WSCAC Chair
I. FEATURED PRESENTATION: Steve Estes-Smargiassi will be presenting the Report on 2010 Water Use Trends and provide an update on the Hultman redundancy projects. (30 min.)
II. WSCAC Briefs: Lexi Dewey will update the committee on the SWMI process with the goal of obtaining member feedback to be used in generating WSCAC comments. (Material will be sent out before the meeting) A quick update and discussion on the status of the bottle bill to solidify WSCAC’s position. Comments will be sent to legislators.
THE NEXT WSCAC MEETING WILL BE A JOINT MEETING WITH WAC ON THE MWRA BUDGET UPDATE & CHALLENGES WITH KATHY SONI, MWRA BUDGET DIRECTOR FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2011 T 10:30 AM AT THE METROPOLITAN AREA PLANNING COMMISSION IN BOSTON.
Summary - WSCAC Meeting
summary February 3, 2011. The Wastewater Advisory Committee and Water Supply Citizen Advisory Committee to the MWRA held its joint monthly meeting at the MAPC in Boston.
Attendees: Larry Schafer WAC, (Newton)
Stephen Greene called the joint meeting to order at 10:30. The WAC summary for January was presented and approved.
Legislative Agenda Update – Fred Laskey
One of the most significant issues for the Authority is debt service assistance. The state subsidy for the portion of the debt service on many of our major projects is now on life support: This program starting years back to help support the cleaning of the harbor.
Over the last few years we’ve lost about $60 million in assistance that now has to be absorbed by ratepayers rather than assisted by the entire state.
To try to make up for some of these costs the Advisory Board is advocating expansion of the bottle bill to include a deposit on bottled water. Unclaimed deposits would go into a dedicated Water and Wastewater Infrastructure fund to be used by municipalities, water
Fred mentioned the PILOT (Payment-in-lieu of taxes) program in the Quabbin Reservoir that now in effect results in some duplicate payments. Reform is sought. He continued that an important goal is that when laws are mandated by the state they should put up some funds to support them.
Stephen Greene asked as you look at these proposals is there anyway that the two committees can weigh in to lend support and assistance. Fred said support to keep the bottle bill in play would be helpful. Also the funding we are asking for is to support statewide projects and benefits and that the state should provide some level of support.
He added that projects went forth with the idea that the state would be partners with the MWRA. Joe Favaloro added that to the extent that the committees can support that there should be a dedicated state support for sewer and water infrastructure like the bottle bill and like debt service assistance that would be helpful. Fred added that municipalities are dealing with additional direction from regulators on storm water and that is going to drive another whole set of issues regarding funding.
Stephen Greene asked in the unlikely event that there is some federal funding is the MWRA positioned to compete for it. Fred said we are always well positioned because of our Master Plan as well as our long-term capital strategy. This means we have projects that are shovel ready or close enough to get going. Joe Favaloro added just look at the stimulus funding and how much went to the MWRA because of being ready to implement. He added that with all the talk about cutting spending at the federal level there is not much funding in the foreseeable future.
Fred moved to water issues where he said redundancy and storage is key. The water break suffered last year just emphasized the discussions we have been having with the Board about new redundancy projects.
Maintenance – John Vetere and Steven Cullen
John said maintenance is a high priority at the MWRA to ensure that we keep the operations running smoothly and we don’t run into the problems we did many years ago at Deer Island. He then reviewed what he called the archway, which is our maintenance program, and how we maintain and how we design the maintenance system. John talked
John said our goal is very simple we want to prolong equipment life and we want to make sure we don’t have large spikes in our capital spending because if we do it shows we are not doing proper planning or proper maintenance. He said we don’t want to replace things prematurely or obviously wait till they fail. John said it is an art as well as a science.
John moved to Deer Island and noted it was the centerpiece to the clean up of Boston Harbor. He noted that it was a $3.8 billion construction project and it is built on 120 acres. He added that maximum treatment capacity is 1.27 billion gal/day and average daily flow is 365 million gal/day. Maximum treatment capacity occurs during storm
John next discussed the John J. Carroll Water Treatment Plant, which was placed in service in the summer of 2005 at a cost of $350 million. Maximum plant capacity is 405mgd and is designed for 270 mgd average, but operates at less than 200mgd. John said some interesting points are that primary disinfection is ozone, our secondary
Fred Laskey added that in winter flows are so low we might have to make upgrades to make sure we can handle these low flows, which is a result of very successful conservation efforts.
John reviewed Metro Operations which he described as well designed and that the people who came up with this system were geniuses. He said the transport system is $2.2 billion of assets and the water system is $6.0 billion of assets. When you think of that it is a tremendous amount of assets to keep maintained and running.
Regarding capital spending John said we get tremendous support from the MWRA BOD, Spending FY08 through FY12 is $1,010 million to keep operations running and improve redundancy and the overall system. He reviewed some major capital projects; spot pond storage facility ($63M), Metrowest Tunnel ($704M) and Huitman Aqueduct that we continue to do for the next 21/2 years and of course Deer Island ($512M). He said where spending a ton of money on just replacement of equipment. John said that maintenance is 17% of the total FY12 expense budget and we are going to continue to argue for similar expenditures to ensure best in class operations.
John reviewed maintenance planning, which consists of crating a maintenance priority list and a daily dispatch record that schedules work and tracks productivity. He reviewed the tremendous amount of work this entails including over 41000-work orders/year and over 2000 preventive maintenance/month. The results speak for themselves, 100% preventive maintenance completed, 98% equipment availability and less than 1% emergency maintenance. He said we use reliability centric maintenance system (RCM) to help us determine when equipment is going to fail that allows us time to repair or replace. This all meets or exceeds industry goals for maintenance metrics, in many cases it is best in class performance but not all, we are always striving to improve our performance. John added that operations also does light maintenance which a major productivity advantage.
One of our metrics is backlog, which tells do we have enough money, do we have enough staff. There is always a 3-5 week backlog. We work this to make sure we are not over or understaffing and the same goes for materials.
John talked about wastewater pipeline maintenance. He noted there are 228 miles of sewer pipeline and we are able to maintain 32 miles at a time with our camera inspection system every year. We then identify as good, needs repair or needs immediate repair. We then build that into our capital program. There are also siphon inspections and manhole
John said regarding preventive maintenance it is done on a set program. These programs are audited and monitored through our quality control program. He added predictive maintenance is much more complicated. If you can predict when something is going to fail you have a better way of replacing it; you can plan it and schedule it in a proactive
John mentioned the Maximo computerized maintenance system where every piece of equipment is entered into and tracked that now is interfaced with our Lawson system that tacks all our account payable, all our purchasing and all our warehouse activity. We can now measure costs for every piece of equipment that is being maintained.
All that we have described takes knowledgeable skilled workers to execute. We have an intensive operations and maintenance training program that covers alignment, Maximo, Vibration, RCM and others to keep the knowledge base where it needs to be. John said to control costs much training is done on site.
Agenda - WAC/WSCAC Joint Meeting
Introduction-Stephen Greene, WAC Chair
(Approval of WSCAC July and November 2010 summary-end of meeting)
FEATURED PRESENTATION: John Vetere, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Operations, Engineering & Construction and Richard Trubiano, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Programs, Policy & Planning will be presenting on System Maintenance. The presentation will highlight the rigorous nature of the Authority’s asset management and maintenance efforts. John and Rick will review the framework for the maintenance program for water and wastewater facilities, equipment, pipelines and valves, and outline the MWRA’s longer term Facilities Asset Management Program strategy.
MWRA Exec. Director Fred Laskey is scheduled to present the current legislative agenda, update members on the status of ongoing redundancy projects and NPDES permitting. Advisory Board Director Joe Favaloro will be available to contribute to the discussion.
THE NEXT WSCAC MEETING WILL BE ON TUESDAY, MARCH 15, 2011 AT THE MWRA FACILITIES IN SOUTHBOROUGH AT 10:00 AM
Minutes of the November 18, 2010 Meeting
WSCAC held its meeting at MWRA's Southborough facility. In attendance were: Lexi Dewey (WSCAC), Sue Costa (WSCAC), Paul Brinkman (Kleinfelder/SEA), Donna Motts (WSCAC), Paul Lauenstein (NepRWA), Martha Morgan (NRWA), Andrea Donlon (CRWC), Whit Beals (WSCAC), Mason Phelps (MRWC), Jerry Eves (PV Trout Unlimited), Margaret Van Deusen (CRWA), Vandana Rao (EOEEA), Sue Beede (Massachusetts Rivers Alliance).
Meeting agenda included a presentation on Safe Yield and the Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI) by Margaret Van Deusen speaking as a member of DEP’s WMA Advisory Committee and Sue Beede speaking as a member of the SWMI Technical Advisory Committee; WSCAC briefs by Whit Beals and Lexi Dewey
Meeting began with introductions.
Overview of Safe Yield and the Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI):
One of the key objectives of the SWMI is to inform DEP in its implementation of the Water Management Act (WMA) and to assist with the new determination of Safe Yield. DEP must determine the Safe Yield of a water source before it issues permits to municipalities or makes permit decisions.
The legal definition of Safe Yield is:
The maximum dependable withdrawals that can be continuously made from a water source including ground and surface water during a period of years in which the probable driest period or period of greatest water deficiency is likely to occur.
Subsequent to the meeting Paul Lauenstein commented that the MA Rivers Alliance defines Safe Yield as “the maximum dependable withdrawals that can be made continuously from a water source including ground or surface water during a period of years in which a the probable driest period or period of greatest water deficiency is likely to occur; provided, however, that such dependability is relative and is a function of storage and drought probability.”
The 2007 Town of Hamilton case in MA Superior Court said Safe Yield is fundamental to the management of a water source and takes into account the natural variability of streamflow, it’s the principal regulatory basis for determining water withdrawals in a basin and all permits must be conditioned so that Safe Yield is not exceeded. Under the WMA if Safe Yield is exceeded, DEP must deny permits.
In October 2009 DEP went public with a new Safe Yield methodology that removed environmental considerations from Safe Yield. This was a 180 degree change. Subsequent to the meeting Paul Lauenstein pointed out that another way to say this would be “In October 2009 DEP went public with a new Safe Yield methodology, which was based on a narrow hydrologic definition of Safe Yield (i.e. how much water can be obtained from a well), and did not factor in environmental considerations.”
CRWA, CLF, IRWA and Clean Water Action sent a joint letter to the Governor resigning from DEP’s WMA committee protesting the new methodology. DEP rescinded the definition and issued a clarification of Safe Yield saying that Safe Yield includes environmental protection factors including ecological health of river systems as well as hydrologic factors. Front and center is the ongoing discussion of how to balance human and environmental needs to insure healthy fish communities and the ecological health of our river systems while providing clean water for human and economic use.
The Charles and Blackstone Basins were the first 20 year permits to come out after this clarification of Safe Yield. DEP developed an interim permit which basically adds 1% to existing allocations. The permits include good language that ensures that at the next 5 year review, DEP will change the permits to incorporate the new long term Safe Yield. Other basins are on extensions of existing permits.
DEP issued an interim draft permit in July on the Ipswich River but ultimately agreed it did not make sense to issue these permits without a long term or real Safe Yield methodology in place. They filed an updated status report with the courts. DEP has committed in the status report to coming up with a Safe Yield methodology sometime in November 2010. Status update: DEP is now saying it will have a Safe Yield determination for the Ipswich basin by the end of December 2010, with possibly a 2 year interim permit.
Vandana Rao, EOEEA, said as far as Safe Yield is concerned, we have gone from wide areas of issues/concerns to a much narrower set of issues. We are engaging, finalizing and working toward a goal for the end of December 2010.
The SWMI process started in January 2010 and has involved the use of new and existing science provided by state agencies and the USGS.
The purpose of the initiative means different things to different stakeholders. To some it’s about water supply, to others economics, and still others are focused on river health. The MA Rivers Alliance is actively participating because in the past, too much water has been allocated to the detriment of fish and other aquatic life. The Ipswich River basin has been studied extensively for over allocation of water in the Ipswich River causing it to dry up in portions over the dry summer months killing fish and degrading aquatic life.
An investigation of the variety and numbers of fish communities in our rivers has been completed by MA Fish & Game and the USGS. Sue Beede gave several examples of fluvial fish that should be in our rivers. Fish and Game developed a categorization method that describes the current conditions of the flowing water habitats in the Massachusetts’s 1400 sub-basins. It’s an assessment process based on a few key metrics selected by Fish & Game. The five
The SWMI study found some sub-basin areas with 40 to 100% depletion of the August median flows as compared to modeled unaffected near natural flow. At the other end of the flow alteration spectrum are surcharges - i.e. sub-basins that have much greater August median flow due to wastewater. Whit asked if the higher flow was also a result of impervious surfaces. The analysis Sue presented did not look at impervious coverage.
Paul Brinkman noted that within basins you can have seriously depleted sub-basins next to extreme high flow sub-basins. There are dramatic differences within basins so the granularity used in the analysis has large impact on the results and conclusions. Sue’s maps and graphs are at a 1400 sub-basin scale versus the 27 basin scale.
USGS couldn’t get monthly reservoir release data so when looking at August they looked only at ground water withdrawals. Andrea Donlon commented that the Quabbin is shown as a surcharge area probably because of the mandated releases to the Swift River.
A number of sub-basins in the Eastern part of the state are severely impacted by water withdrawals, wastewater returns and impervious cover. USGS and the state Fish & Game did a preliminary study on the relationship between these altered flows and the fluvial fish communities. Their study considered altered flows, impervious surfaces and natural characteristics. They had two significant findings. First, the health and density of fluvial fish declines as flow alteration increases. Second, the diversity of fluvial fish also declines with altered flows. Impervious surfaces which affect water quality also negatively affect the health, density and variety of fluvial fish.
Paul Brinkman asked if the model had been calibrated. The model is based on regression analysis and is predictive. Vandana spoke to this and the level of confidence in the model. There is a strong statistically significant association between flow alteration and the reduction in fluvial fish.
Paul Brinkman asked what the attainable goals are. There has been some discussion of goals and whether Categories 4 and 5 should be improved to Category 3. The WSCAC group discussed the categories and broad ranges within them in some detail. Vandana pointed out that the data on fish has been collected over the last decade.
The vast majority of Category 5 areas are in the Eastern part of the state with some clusters around Springfield, Worcester, and Pittsfield. Impervious cover has a greater influence on water quality and resulting aquatic habitat than flow alteration. (See graphs in the USGS and Fish & Game reports)
There are severe water deficits based upon existing water withdrawals and very significant surcharges based on wastewater discharges. We are already over allocating water in many basins.
The legal definition of Safe Yield states that:
This definition makes it clear that permitted withdrawals must take into account the effects of continuously taking this volume of water every day during a drought period that might last more than a year and that it is based on a drought condition. This definition comes from the Water Management Act (Chapter 21G of the MA Code)
The state would like to use the 27 basins (instead of 1400 sub basins) with only a few sub-divided. This has a pernicious effect on river flows because sub basins are grouped together without taking individual characteristics into account. There has been some movement within the technical and advisory groups to look at the smaller scale and not bundle together watersheds that have no hydrological connection.
A discussion ensued how a small stream could be decimated by a water withdrawal and yet have no impact on the larger basin. Vandana noted that Safe Yield should not be looked at alone. There are other in-stream related needs to be considered. Safe Yield is not the only number that should inform the permit request. However, the challenge is that Safe Yield is the only provision in the statute and regulations that allows DEP to say no to a permit increase. The state is doing work on streamflow and looking at how much of the August median flow can be taken and still have a healthy Category 3 river fish community. They are also looking at river conditions throughout the year and the annual 7-day low-flow.
The big concern is how to include streamflow criteria with Safe Yield. One potential option is to incorporate the streamflow criteria into Safe Yield and have these criteria provide environmental safety factors. This would automatically give streamflow criteria weight within Safe Yield. A number of other states use streamflow criteria.
There is concern that DEP would use streamflow criteria as a balancing act with economic and development issues. In these situations, the environment typically loses.
The environmental protection factors currently being proposed are to allow no more than a 30% reduction in relative fluvial fish density - relative to the unimpacted August Median flow versus taking out 100% of the August median flow. This is an important distinction. This translates into being able to allocate 25% of the August median flow with 75% being set aside for the environment. The problem is that August median flow is not always available in a drought.
Andrea Donlon requested a more technical description of storage. The state is giving credit for reservoir storage above and beyond one year of system use and one year of storage. This basically applies to Quabbin, Wachusett, Cobble Mountain and the Westfield River. The Westfield River is one of the healthiest rivers in the state for fish. The USGS is studying releases from reservoirs and what is appropriate. We know downstream releases are important but we don’t have enough information yet on exactly how much or when. There is also discussion on whether surcharges from wastewater should be credited in calculating Safe Yield. The most common fluvial fish in Massachusetts, the White Sucker, loves wastewater.
Dona Motts noted that the original meaning of Safe Yield was how much water can be withdrawn and still maintain the water source, but now we are focusing on the health, density and variety of fish populations. Sue Beede pointed out that the statute always said you needed to maintain a minimum streamflow. Bringing in fish informs this minimum streamflow concept and adds a more sophisticated understanding of what we need for a minimum streamflow.
Dona expressed concern about a one-size fits all approach across the state rather than looking at individual basin characteristics. The group agreed the one-size fits all was primary concern.
For the Ipswich, DEP set a minimum streamflow they felt included adequate water for fish and recreation. When USGS completed the fisheries analysis, they found they needed double the flow if a healthy fish population were to survive.
Paul Brinkman pointed out that droughts were here before we were here and fish died. He is concerned we are trying to get to a place that is not achievable. Margaret Van Deusen agreed but said we can move towards protecting and restoring where we can. Due to the level of uncertainty, a margin of safety should be included.
Paul Lauenstein spoke of the tremendous amount of potential for conserving water. The benefits would include reducing green house gases, improving river flow, and reducing the cost of water. There is a wide range of water use per person per day, and low hanging fruit still remaining.
Andrea Donlon mentioned that DEP regulations have ten protection factors including waste assimilation, hydropower, economics and fish communities. However, her experience with DEP issuing the Russell BioMass permit is that they looked at the withdrawal amount compared to the August base flow and said it small therefore it will not have any effect on the ten factors. There was no discussion with Fish and Game, river guides, or others for considering those ten factors. Safe Yield is very important because there is currently no additional method for considering those ten factors. Vandana said they are looking at putting qualifiers and providing guidance on those factors.
Margaret pointed out that the SWMI process has state agencies talking to each other and has given Fish & Wildlife a seat at the table with a voice.
Margaret Van Deusen said it would be helpful if WSCAC submitted comments on what the Water Infrastructure and Finance Commission is looking at. Lexi will look into this and send the information out to members. Paul Brinkman said the Commission seems to be all over the map and is discussing taxing wells.
Lexi will be sending out an email on Forestry at Quabbin. The STAC report is expected sometime in February 2011. MA Audubon submitted comments to DCR recommending that the STAC process be transparent. WSCAC submitted comments to DCR, MWRA and others on Quabbin forestry in relation to water quality and DCR land protection plans for the Quabbin, Ware and Wachusett.
The draft permit for the Clinton Wastewater treatment plant was issued by EPA and the Nashua River Watershed has submitted comments. (Letter attached) The flow on the South Nashua has large variation as water is released at the discretion of the MWRA’. Releases can go from 1.8 million gallons to over 100 million gallons per day in 24 hours. The watershed organization is asking that the Authority increase the minimum flow to the South Nashua and that EPA deny MWRA’s request for an increase in wastewater from the Clinton WWTP during the river’s critical low flow period. A more formalized agreement with MWRA on releases would increase river health. The Authority has said it has an extra 6 mgd available to release down the South Branch of the Nashua but no formalized flow schedule agreement has been reached.
Agenda - Tuesday, November 18, 2010
New e-mail address: email@example.com
Presentation-Update on Safe Yield and the Sustainable Water Management Initiative-Margaret Van Deusen and Sue Beede
MWRA Briefs: Stephen Estes-Smargiassi
WSCAC Briefs - Whit Beals and Lexi Dewey
The next WSCAC meeting will be held Thursday, December 16, 2010 at the MWRA facilities in Southboro. Please submit travel vouchers by December 20, 2010.
Agenda - Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Introduction-Whitney Beals, WSCAC Chair
Approval of March and May meeting reports
Presentation on Hydrilla verticillata and other aquatic invasive species-Tom Flannery, Aquatic Ecologist with DCR Lakes and Ponds, Dave Worden, DCR Division of Water Supply Protection-Wachusett and John Gregoire, MWRA Reservoir Operations
Update on the DEP Safe Yield process and the Sustainable Water Management Initiative
WSCAC Briefs: Whitney Beals and Lexi Dewey-Vote to increase executive committee membership
THE NEXT WSCAC MEETING WILL BE HELD ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2010 AT THE MWRA FACILITIES IN SOUTHBOROUGH
Agenda - Thursday, September 16
Agenda - Thursday, August 26, 2010
Minutes of the July 21, 2010 Meeting
WSCAC held its meeting at MWRA's Southborough facility. In attendance were Whitney Beals-WSCAC Chair, Lexi Dewey-WSCAC Exec. Director, Dona and Ward Motts, Paul Lauenstein-NepRWA, Mason Phelps-Millers River Watershed, Alice Clemente-Blackstone River Watershed, Bob Hoyt-Worchester, Jerry Eves-Trout Unlimited
DCR staff discussed current Quabbin forestry practices as written in the Quabbin Land Mgmt. Plan 2007-2017 and provided an update on the work of the Scientific Technical Advisory Committee (STAC). Following the presentation, Steve Estes-Smargiassi gave MWRA briefings on an emergency response drill at Quabbin, water system redundancy projects and the Wachusett and Quabbin UV disinfection facilities. WSCAC briefings followed with an announcement of the MWRA Advisory Board field trip in August.
Forestry Presentation-Dan Clark
DCR forestry encompasses two distinctly different areas: forestry practices in state parks throughout the Commonwealth, and forestry practices in watershed areas for the Division of Water Supply Protection. Forestry for water supply and water quality in the Ware, Wachusett and Quabbin watersheds are defined in the Land Management Plans written by DCR staff for each watershed and reviewed by the legislatively mandated Quabbin Watershed Advisory Committee and the Ware River Watershed Advisory Committee.
In April 2009, Secretary Bowles announced the Forest Vision process to address public criticism of logging in Robinson State Park and other parks in the western part of the state. Biomass facilities proposed for Springfield, Greenfield and Russell also became part of the discussion at EOEEA (see report at www.manomet.org) due to the volume of wood needed (from logging) to generate energy at the proposed plants.
The DCR Stewardship Council assembled the Forest Futures Technical Steering Committee and a second committee consisting of interested stakeholders in April 2009 to examine DCR forestry practices. The committees met separately and together over a year and public workshops were held around the state to register public comment. The results produced a report with recommendations to DCR Commissioner Rick Sullivan. From the report, Sec. Bowles announced the Commonwealth Forest Heritage Plan in April 2010.
The plan holds approximately 200,000 acres of state lands in reserves with a management focus on conservation biology. It also calls for greater coordination of land management across all state agencies, increased public involvement and transparency of agency practices.
There are three zones currently being established that specify management practices according to the following designations:
Currently, roughly 40,000 acres, or about 13 percent of State and Urban Parks lands are held in protected reserves. Under the new plan, at least 60 percent of forest land, or 185,000 acres will be designated as parklands and reserves, and therefore protected from logging. DCR will begin a public process (upcoming workshops on Landscape Designations) to identify areas of state-owned forest land to be included in the greatly expanded reserves.
Secretary Bowles is also directing DCR’s Division of Water Supply Protection and DFG’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to review their forest land management practices in light of the Forest Legacy Plan, with the goal of coordinating and integrating forest stewardship across state agencies.
For DCR Water Supply Protection forests
STAC’s recommendations will be taken to the two legislatively mandated advisory committees, QWAC and WRWAC, for comment sometime in February, 2011.
STAC met in June and August 2010 at Quabbin. Thom Kyker-Snowman presented the Quabbin Land Management Plan and took committee members on a field trip of recent harvests in June. A moratorium on new logging was announced in April and lots previously paid for were reviewed by DCR and the two watershed advisory committees. Both committees voted to let existing logging contracts move forward. In the review process, two lots were cancelled and the money refunded to the logging company and several lots were modified to reflect tree retention/softening.
Dan Clark stated that, “we feel strongly that the most effective watershed cover is diverse, it’s multilayered, it’s multi-aged and it has multispecies. It is most effective because it’s bigger, and actively reproducing. New trees are constantly being grown to replace older trees. This helps control erosion, sediments, dissimilating nutrients, accumulating biomass and regulating temperature and composition. It’s deliberately patterned and specifically creating these changes as opposed to relying on the random nature of other things happening. The forest is resistant and resilient.” He noted that the DWSP has been managing the watersheds for the last 50 years. Over that time period, there have been at least 1000 timber sales in conjunction with the protection of other cultural and natural resources. Throughout the history of this active land management, water quality is maintained and there has been no degradation related to forest management. “We know that because we sample consistently and extensively.”
Beals and Steve Estes-Smargiassi noted the ongoing success of the waiver of filtration by EPA and MA DEP. Steve mentioned the Quabbin’s stability and the enormous benefit in water quality due to the reservoir’s physical and natural geographical and topographical characteristics. He added that Quabbin has higher unfiltered water quality than NYC, Seattle, Portland and Bangor, Maine.
Lauenstein asked about the type and percentage of tree species. Quabbin is made up of 70% hardwood and the Ware watershed has more pine. Paul mentioned the importance of wildlife diversity and the presence or lack of predators.
The topic changed to the status of the Long Horned Asian Beetle and the quarantine zone which includes all of West Boylston and approximately 3300 acres of DCR water supply. When an infested tree is indentified, it is cut down and chipped into 1 inch chips. Every potential host tree is surveyed within a mile of the infested tree. In the spring, the uninfested host trees will be treated with a pesticide. Over 62,000 trees were treated before the end of the season. Hoyt mentioned the huge loss of trees in Worcester. USDA doesn’t know the current extent of the infestation and they continue to look at various treatment options. So far, the beetle has not been seen at the Quabbin.
Beals mentioned that it may be helpful to address the perception by some that there is a difference between so called North Quabbin and South Quabbin in the way forestry harvesting practices in the Land Management Plan are implemented. He also asked if science and/or the art of silviculture and forest harvesting mention anything about the wisdom of confining harvesting to the months when soil is frozen or snow-covered versus harvesting in the summertime? Harvesting outside the growing season would avoid impacting the nesting season, soil erosion and heavy rains. Herm Eck responded that with forestry equipment getting larger, sometimes you actually have less impact on the ground by harvesting during the dryer parts of the summer.
MWRA Briefs-Steve Estes-Smargiassi
Today DCR and MWRA are running drills as part of an emergency response plan on what would happen if the Quabbin dam were to fail. MWRA is charged with ensuring the completion of inspections of all MWRA dams and those dams jointly managed with the DCR for water supply. The last rounds of inspections were completed in 2008. The inundation maps for this part of the emergency response plan show that a dam failure at Quabbin would take out a substantial swath of urban development between the Swift River and Long Island sound. We practice what we would do if we had a break in that portion of our transmission system. We try everything between the reservoir and the customer’s tap to figure out what could go wrong and make sure we have a plan in place. MWRA has over 100 emergency response plans to address various potential failures in the water system.
Disinfection at Ware and the Carroll Water Treatment Plant
The EPA’s Long-Term Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule requires MWRA to add an additional disinfectant at the Ware facility to treat the water from the Quabbin. All unfiltered water systems are required to have two primary means of disinfection. The Ware facility currently uses chlorination for primary and residual disinfection. In the future, chlorine will remain as the first primary disinfectant with UV being the second.
Compliance with the EPA rule is required by October 1, 2014. This includes an allowance for a two-year extension for large plants requiring substantial capital modifications like the Ware Disinfection Facility. The schedule for engineering and constructing of UV has a goal of substantial completion by September 2012.
The preliminary design for the addition of ultraviolet disinfection for the treatment of Quabbin water at the Ware disinfection Facility is being completed. Last September 2009, ultraviolet equipment was approved for the John J. Carroll Water Treatment Plant. MWRA staff recommends Calgon Carbon Corporation for supplying both facilities with ultraviolet disinfection equipment.
Redundancy in the MWRA Water System
We built the MetroWest tunnel to provide redundancy to the 1940s vintage open aqueduct which needed to be rehabilitated. With the completion of the tunnel, we’re in the process of repairing the aqueduct.
As a result of the May 1, 2010 pipe break, MWRA has been looking at all of our redundancy planning and our capital program. We reexamined that schedule and the sequencing of the aqueduct and for a relatively modest increase in cost, we can shave about 16 months off of the projected completion date of bringing the aqueduct back on line. At this point, most of it is off-line and open in a variety of locations. The project’s estimated completion date is 2014.
The second area we’ve been working on is Metro Boston area redundancy for the tunnel network and some of our large pipelines. There’s a place called Shaft 7 where a northern tunnel and a southern tunnel take off. Right now that’s a critical point in the system. If the tunnel shaft that connects all this or the piping at the surface where water comes up and goes back down to the tunnel and connects the service piping had any failure, we would have to take the tunnel network down and would not be able to supply Boston. It’s a critical location and over fifty years old. MWRA staff are beginning a planning process for a fifteen year improvements program with funds in our capital budget.
Steve showed slides of the pipe break and the discovery of the missing coupling. The cause of the break is still unclear.
The MWRA is negotiating with EOEEA on a mutually beneficial agreement for both agencies regarding an expedited review process for communities interested in joining the MWRA water system and the addition of Smart Growth language in the admission process.
Question: Does summer lawn irrigation drive demand?
There will not be a WSCAC August meeting. Everyone is invited to attend the Advisory Board field trip on MWRA water redundancy projects on August 26th. Details will be emailed as we receive them. Please email or call the WSCAC office if you plan to attend. The committee will be commenting on water redundancy issues so for those who can attend, it will be very helpful.
The WSCAC executive committee meeting will meet upstairs directly after the main meeting.
Agenda - Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Approval of March and May 2010 Minutes (emailed separately)
Presentation-Current Quabbin Forestry Practices and the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) - DCR DWSP staff
DCR staff will be discussing current Quabbin forestry practices as written in the Quabbin Land Mgmt. Plan 2007-2017 and providing an update on the work of STAC. Please read the Forestry Section of the Plan as a starting point for questions and discussion. If you didn’t receive the forestry packet, please call or email the WSCAC office and we will send a copy to you.
WSCAC will be preparing a position on Quabbin forestry to be sent to the MWRA Board of Directors. Your feedback on this issue is important to our on-going mission as an advisory committee to the Authority.
MWRA Briefs-Steve Estes-Smargiassi
WSCAC Briefs-Whit Beals and Lexi Dewey
WSCAC WILL NOT BE HAVING A MEETING IN AUGUST.
PLEASE ATTEND THE MWRA ADVISORY BOARD FIELD TRIP ON REDUNDANCY IN THE MWRA WATER SYSTEM
WSCAC members and friends have the unique opportunity to view several Quabbin forestry sites, walk a portion of the proposed New England Scenic Trail with Superintendent Bill Pula and have lunch at the new WSCAC office.
Information written by DCR on both topics is attached to provide a basis for discussion.
We will meet at 10:00 am in the conference room on the first floor of the renovated Quabbin building where WSCAC has its new office, located on Blue Meadow Road. It is the second white house with blue shutters, on the left.
Please be prompt and wear sturdy walking shoes. Long pants and bug repellent are optional but helpful on the hiking trails.
PLEASE RSVP PROMPTLY SO WE KNOW THE SIZE OF THE GROUP FOR VAN TRANSPORTATION AND FOR A LUNCH COUNT
The Executive Committee will meet at the end of the field trip.
Minutes of the April 16, 2010 Meeting
The Wastewater Advisory Committee and the Water Supply Citizen Advisory Committee to the MWRA held its monthly meeting at the
Whitney Beals called the joint meeting to order at 10:30. After a round of introductions WAC’s March minutes were approved as written. Ed Bretschneider mentioned that WAC’s next meeting was May 7; Kathy Baskin from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs would be giving a Policy Update. Whitney introduced Charles Ryan from the MWRA to give an update on the February/March storms.
February/March 2010 Storm Updates – Charles Ryan (MWRA)
Because of the heavy rain flows the emergency storage for Nut Island was filled to capacity. This resulted in opening the gates to the emergency outfalls which discharge to Quincy Bay for two short periods of 39 and 18 minutes to protect the facility from damage. The total untreated discharge to Quincy Bay was estimated to be no more than
The Deer Island Plant remained in compliance with its NPDES permit limitations throughout this storm event while setting numerous records for pumping and treatment. As mentioned previously flows up to 700 million gallons per day received full secondary treatment, while the balance of excess flows were blended, receiving primary treatment
Charles added that during these storms every facility was staffed 24 hours a day, we had additional maintenance and field staff on call, it took its toll on field operations staff. All present congratulated the MWRA on doing an outstanding job in extremely difficult situations.
MWRA Budget Update and FY11 Challenges – Kathy Soni and Tom Durkin
Kathy said they would review 2011 expense and capital budget as well as where the MWRA finished last year.
Kathy said the total capital budget is $5.1 billion and the expense budget exceeds $600 million for the first time. Kathy noted that in 2003 the Authority established a 5 year cap to put a limit on capital spending as well as to provide an estimate for future capital spending. She added that the cap for the next budget is $16 million less than the previous cap. Kathy then reviewed what makes up the expense budget. A direct expense is anything that is operationally related, from wages to professional services to materials. For FY09 the direct expenses were under-budget by about $3,9 million. That was a result of favorable utility costs as well as holding back an optional pension payment. Savings in a given year can be put in a reserve fund then we can defease debt with it. For the past two years this has been our practice.
Tom Durkin explained MWRA's debt financing of capital projects. The authority uses a mix of short term notes and fixed and variable rate bonds. The options are determined by budget constraints and expected interest rates. Restructuring has been used to spread debt service over a longer term. Tom added whenever there is an opportunity to pay off the
Kathy said that we are not sure if we have captured all the costs for the storm events that Charlie spoke to and how that might affect FY10. For FY11 the budget process was a bit different in that the Advisory Board challenged us to level spending; that is to have a 0% impact on rates for the communities, given the economic situation. One impact of this
Kathy continued aside from controlling COLA’s, overtime is now limited to covering emergencies and critical maintenance projects. She added utilities are one of the more volatile line expense items. But with increased self-generation at Deer Island and green initiatives FY11 budget is primarily level funded with FY10.
Kathy added that debt is the mountain we need to get over in the next couple of years. She added that debt service is currently at 59% going up to 61% in 2016. Ed Bretschneider asked if the MWRA has benchmarked its debt with other public utilities. Tom said what is unique about the MWRA is our age. The bonds for this debt were purchased in the 1990’s puts us in a younger state than more mature bigger utilities who have been able to amortize their debt for longer than we have. We would have to match our age and amortizations schedules with others, we are higher leveraged than others, explained by our age.
Kathy said the debt service remains the largest driver of the budget. Close to 80% of all our projects were mandated. The proposed FY11 debt totals $335.3 million reflecting $8.4 million increase over the FY10 budget. However, had it not been for the availability of the projected FY10 surplus to defease over $23 million in debt and the ability to restructure, the FY11 debt service would have been over $30 million higher.
Kathy said there are some expenses that are outside of the MWRA’s control. But with all the challenges we still increased maintenance by over 3%. This is a commitment we have in maintaining our assets and not letting them degrade. Asset protection is a major objective of our multi-year Master Plan. Kathy emphasized that what we are discussing
In regards to the cost of the storm events, Kathy said the Authority did a remarkable job but not surprisingly there were increased costs. For example overtime spiked as well as fuel usage to support field operations and equipment run time. Regarding controlling costs Martin Pillsbury asked how much does energy self-generation contribute to the overall energy costs. Kathy said that Deer Island consumes about 70% of all the energy and of that about 20% is through self-generation. For FY11 we believe that will increase to 28%. Whitney Beals said that in New England we are at a competitive disadvantage for the cost of electricity. He added that EMC in Westborough last year finished a data center and they are walking away from it. They are going to rebuild in one of the
Kathy moved to capital expenses and said for the last cap (discussed previously) we spent about $180M and the budget for the new one is $250M. She added that it would not be unusual for projects to slip into future years. Ed Bretschneider asked if the Master Plan still drives capital spending, Kathy said absolutely, in every cycle we are looking at the Master Plan that was developed in 2006 and when we add new projects we look at the roadmap. She added that there are always some emergency projects, which are a special case. Kathy said that capital spending for CSO’s is slowly diminishing and the capital program is going to be reshaped with more funding going to asset protection and infrastructure improvement. North Dorchester Bay and the Reserve Channel are some of the major projects on the wastewater side and of course maintenance and asset protection of Deer Island. On the waterside redundancy is going to be the scheme going forward.
Ed Bretschneider mentioned that WAC’s next meeting is May 7; Kathy Baskin from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will give a Policy Update. On June 4 Martin Pillsbury will discuss water re-use and low impact development.
Appendix: From Tom Durkin
The MWRA is a capital intense agency. $7.1 billion has been spent on MWRA’s modernization efforts to date. Much of this investment has been financed through debt. Total outstanding debt as of June 2009 was $5.8 billion. The debt payments on this debt including both principal and interest budgeted for fiscal year 2011 is $355 million. Managing this debt service is very important given that this component of the budget can have the greatest impact on the rates.
As a percent of the total MWRA budget, debt service will be 59% for fiscal year 2010 up from 36% in 1990 and is estimated to grow to 61% in 2016. This increased share of the budget consumed by debt requires greater implementation of debt management strategies that will help to control capital financing costs. MWRA’s debt portfolio includes fixed rate bonds, variable rate bonds, commercial paper, and Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust loans. These different types of debt and the blend of each enabled MWRA to have lower financing costs.
Also, MWRA’s past year’s practice of using year-end budget surpluses to defease (pay principal early) debt together with some measured restructuring of the amortization of certain bonds has resulted in a
Treasury will continue to monitor its debt portfolio for opportunities to refinance bonds with higher interest rates for lower rates. This practice of “refunding” bonds has yielded significant savings for MWRA. Treasury will advocate for operational and financial management practices that will preserve the high credit rating that MWRA currently enjoys from Standard and Poor’s (AA+), Moody’s Investor Services (Aa2)and Fitch Ratings (AA) as a way of minimizing perceived credit risk to MWRA investors and therefore lower interest costs.
Continued monitoring of MWRA’s debt portfolio from a perspective sensitive to importance of controlling capital financing cost will be very important. Implementation of established best practices in tax exempt debt issuance including a prudent measure of variable rate debt, maximizing the subsidized Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust loans, short term issuance of commercial paper notes while construction is underway as well as a carefully considered approach to the modern debt instruments offered by banking institutions will aid MWRA in controlling capital financing costs.
Minutes - May 18, 2010
Meeting agenda included a presentation and discussion regarding watershed protection activities, aquatic invasives and reservoir modeling work with UMass at the Wachusett Reservoir, led by John Scannell, the Wachusett Regional Director and Pat Austin, Environmental Quality– DCR Division of Water Supply Protection at Wachusett; MWRA Briefs by Steve Estes-Smargiassi; WSCAC Briefs by Lexi Dewey and Whit Beals; a vote to increase exec comm. membership; and information regarding the proposed route of the New England Scenic Trail through a section of the DCR Quabbin Reservation.
Meeting began with introductions, and an approval of the minutes from the joint April meeting with WAC at the MWRA Adv. Bd. with MWRA’s Kathy Soni and Tom Durkin.
Overview of Watershed Protection Activities at Wachusett:
Watershed Protection Program: A system-wide watershed protection plan with 4 components: Quabbin, Ware River, Wachusett and the Sudbury backup system was written last year. Prior to that there were separate plans for the Quabbin and the Wachusett Reservoirs. This current plan is the overall guiding document of all they do. Included are land management plans for each of the watersheds, a public access plan for each of the watersheds and all of them feed into the overall Watershed Protection Plan.
The program is focused on three things:
PROTECTION BY OWNERSHIP/CONTROL: Wachusett has an active land acquisition program and a significant amount of the watershed (from an 8% watershed ownership in 1986 to the present ownership that is close to 28%) has been purchased. These numbers do not include other partnerships such as NGOs, non-profits, land trusts etc. that control land within the watershed. The estimate total of percentage under protective ownership control is more than 50%.
Forestry: The current land management plan runs through 2010, and management are in the process of writing a new draft of the Wachusett Land Management Plan. The plans have always included and will continue to include active forestry so that healthy and diverse forests can be maintained. Forestry is not done for revenue purposes, that has never been the goal of the program.
DCR owns 18,000 acres of Wachusett Watershed, and 400 acres are managed through thinning to help maintain a healthy forest (with diverse species). Forestry staff inspect all active timber sales to make sure they comply with state regulations and internal controls. There are also approximately100 miles of forest roads with staff who are responsible for evaluating these roads and making sure they are kept to a reasonable standard—mostly for fire control.
Encroachment, Trespassing & Markers: DCR owns 214 miles of boundaries with neighbors at Wachusett. We have spent the past 3 years identifying those boundaries, which of course has led to issues of encroachment – which can be as simple as someone mowing over their property lines to bigger issues such as structures built on our property. Most of the issues have been resolved fairly amicably and quickly. Others have been difficult – for example we own a residential driveway. So if we told the owners to get off our property, they wouldn’t be able to access their garage. We’re working on resolving these issues. The markings themselves are small and bright orange that say DCR Water Supply Property Boundary.
Wildlife Management Program: Our bird harassment program has been going on since 1992 and helps control impacts from gulls and geese in the fall and winter season. It’s a time intensive program but has also allowed us to meet water quality standards since the early 90s and is very important to our Protection Program. We also have a wildlife staff that does a lot of work to control potential impacts from wildlife (like beaver, muskrat and geese). We have a control zone for beaver on the North end of the reservoir that we worked out with Fish and Wildlife that allows us to control them year round in that small zone if need be. Beaver and muskrat located in the wrong place can cause fecal coliform issues, other possible pathogens, the same with birds too. At the intakes we’re required to make sure that fecal coliform numbers don’t exceed certain numbers. In fact, we violated those numbers regularly before we started controlling birds in the early 90s, and haven’t violated it since.
Protection Through Regulation and Working With Communities: We have our own regulations from the Watershed Protection Act that controls human activities within 400 ft. of a tributary to the reservoir. Staff deal with this on a daily basis. The goal is not to halt development, but to get the most appropriate development we can. We also work with and use DEP and EPA’s regulations and local towns too, to help implement regulations that can benefit and protect the water supply and guide development. We work regularly with Boards of Health, Planning Boards and Conservation Commissions in all six of the major communities within our watershed.
Watershed Monitoring and Surveillance: We have a ranger staff that covers both enforcement and education. They work dawn to dusk seven days a week and are on the property anytime the public is present. They patrol the watershed on foot, with all terrain vehicles and snowmobiles. The trend is fairly steady – we work to resolve motorized vehicle usage in one area, only to see it emerge in another spot. We keep it at bay enough to not cause any significant damage. It’s difficult where the rail lines cross our property because those are great places to ride. But the state and environmental police have been great support.
There isn’t an active ATV group at Wachusett. However at Ware River there are some places where we allow snowmobiles and there are active snowmobile clubs – but they’re also active stewards, and they’ll report the people outside their club who aren’t paying attention to regulations. If people know there are consequences for illegal activity, the numbers of violators will stays smaller.
Water quality monitoring happens weekly in the reservoir and tributaries. In the winter we sample for phytoplankton once a week, and as many as three times a week in the summer when the potential for problems increases. We monitor 54 different locations in the watershed each week, and have a very active program that helps us to identify trends and notice any significant problems that might harm water quality. Water quality has improved in the watershed over the last couple of decades due in part to septic system upgrades, etc. that have aided the quality of the watershed.
Question: Can you touch on water quality as it relates to lower demand?
Question: When was the last time Ware River water was sent to Wachusett?
DCR Division of Water Supply Protection partners with MWRA, to purchase materials and train employees in a hazardous material emergency planning and response program. Wachusett has a railroad line that crosses it, several roadways around it, and we realized that contractors aren’t set up to deal with spills in the reservoir. It would require a team effort if a hazardous spill ever happened. We continue to learn from and work with railroads and local communities to protect the reservoir.
Presentation/Discussion on Reservoir Modeling:
A presentation on UMass reservoir modeling work; a detailed discussion on how the MWRA daily data and weekly profiles regarding reservoir models are compared to “reality” and how theory and data have been put to the test to ultimately establish an ideal combination of approach and data related to intake, topography and water flow at the reservoir.
We’ve been working with UMass for several years in developing a 2-d model of Wachusett reservoir, which we can use to better understand the reservoir and ask questions about future water issues. What is interesting about the model is its origins. It was first used by a long term water supply group to look at issues related to expansion back in the late 70s into the 80s. Then the model evolved in the mid 1990s; and we’ve continued to use it to look at issues at the reservoir – for example birds and moving them to particular areas of the reservoir (because we can’t get rid of them), some work dealing with organic input; pump stations and potential sewage problems, etc. The current work being done is to look at spills into the reservoir. Wachusett is surrounded by roadways, and with some drainage into the reservoir, people have asked what happens if a truck has an accident and spillage occurs in the reservoir? Many factors will influence how the spillage will move through the reservoir – weather, season, wind, etc. What we’ve been doing is to aggregate these various issues and do some modeling to create several general scenarios that will help us think about how we might respond to the spill.
Questions have emerged about various options to maintain a more realistic perspective related to actual data. A new potential program using computers is in the works to add to our complex understanding of the reservoir in relation to length/depth and width, flow, composition, etc. whereas right now we can only use depth data.
The final topic discussed was the issue of aquatic invasive species, how important these issues are to the public, and how the Zebra Mussel helped bring these issues into public awareness. The loss of native species crowded out by exotics has a domino effect on habitat, water quality and infrastructure in the environment. Eliminating these various species from basins is nearly impossible and hugely expensive. Instead work has been done to insure that these invasives do not spread into the reservoir. In particular, control work in the Oakdale and Thomas basins has occurred and while occasional bits have made their way into the main basins, overall the control work is actually working.
The water chestnut is an issue in the Sudbury. It spreads easily, but it is also a bit easier to control than Eurasion Milfoil because of the ease of harvesting its seeds. Hand harvesting of the seeds has been the method used in the areas where the chestnuts are growing. Other invasive examples include Zebra Mussels, the Asian Clam and the Spiny Water flea and Didymo. Overall the monitoring of various potential infestations is continuous, and where possible, controlling the spread of these infestations is underway.
Summary of the Invasive Program is three-fold:
Plants hold the title of most non-native species. Discussion regarding educating and working with fishermen to understand the potential problems their actions may have on the reservoir in relation to invasives. Boat ramp monitors help keep track of what’s coming in/out of the reservoir in terms of people and their boats, fishing lines, even their waders as potential transporters for invasives.
Drainage Projects and Road Improvements: There are approximately 50 locations near Wachusett in which water discharges either directly into the reservoir or in very close proximity. DCR has now broken these spots up into different areas, highlighting 7 or 8 that are close to the intake. They have personnel designing retrofits for those drainage systems to eliminate discharges into the reservoir. The bridge over the Stillwater River is one immediate example in which drainage is seeping directly into the river and Mass Highway has agreed to cut the drainage off and build a detention basin on DCR property. Mass Highway has been extremely cooperative in looking for ways to help reroute discharges and continues to be a potential funding source to eliminate discharges entirely.
When comparing Wachusett vs. Quabbin water quality, though the tributaries of both are reasonably similar, what is different is the ratio of the watershed to the reservoir. The average detention time at Quabbin is 4 or 5 years. At Wachusett, the simple hydraulic detention time is less than 6 months. Thus, Quabbin water gets more “natural” treatment due to longer detention time.
With respect to the EPA order to continue the waiver from filtration, it is a yearly endeavor. Each year the EPA reviews the reservoir status and sends a good to go order associated with the continuous implementation of the Watershed Protection Plan. EPA needs to find that the plan is adequate. Land protection must continue in concert with acceptable development to make sure water quality doesn’t regress. Protection continues, and ownership has jumped from 8% to 28%. However, the process of purchasing has shifted. In the past, purchasing consisted of buying whatever became available. Now purchasing is parcel specific with the decision making process guided by new issues facing water quality. The Land Protection budget has decreased and every acre owned is an acre that needs to be maintained, so DCR needs to demonstrate the value of each parcel.
MWRA Brief: Steve Estes-Smargiassi (Entire power point presentation regarding the break is on the website).
On the morning of May 1st, a coupling at the seam of a 10 foot wide water pipe in Weston failed sending 265 million gallons of water, or 8 million gallons an hour, into the Charles River. The leak was located where the MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel meets the City Tunnel and the steel pipe in question was installed less than 10 years ago and met full engineering standards.
During the repair, a boil water order went into effect on Saturday for 31 MWRA communities including Boston, along with emergency water conservation measures to conserve supply. At 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, crews closed the valve on the leaking pipe and switched to a backup, non-drinkable water source. Alternative sources included the Sudbury Aqueduct, the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and Spot Pond Reservoir. The Chestnut Hill pump station was built specifically for the purpose of emergencies. It took some time, but MWRA crews got it up and running, had chlorine delivered to the site from our supplier in Rhode Island to clean the water, and reactivated the Sudbury system/aqueduct to flow water down to Boston. This emergency backup system was able to meet system demands for bathing, flushing and fire protection until the new coupling was installed and two consecutive water safety tests were performed to make sure the water was free of any dangerous bacteria.
By Sunday, MWRA crews were working with welders to weld a new coupling into place between the two pieces of pipe. They then poured a concrete cradle around the pipe to secure it. The pipe was tested for collateral damage to make sure the repair was adequate. Then the system had to undergo pressure testing to make sure the new coupling could withstand the rush of water. To insure water quality safety, MWRA performed 1700 bacteria tests and 6 out of 1700 tests were positive for total coliform, but not a single test was positive for e coli.
MWRA knows the location of critical points of failure in the water system and has plans that include over 100 emergency response plans for every facility. Due to emergency preparedness training, each crew, group and contingent did their jobs and did them well.
Over the past 13 years the Authority has spent on average about 70 million dollars annually on redundancy in the water system. Portions of the Hultman Aqueduct are currently under construction and MWRA is looking to accelerate some of that work to increase safety as soon as possible. They don’t want to take too many points out of service and increase the risk that if one thing breaks then service will be interrupted.
Vote: Executive committee membership vote was tabled.
New England Scenic Trail: Email summary will be sent out by Lexi, with a request for feedback.
Agenda - Friday, May 18, 2010
Introduction: Whitney Beals, WSCAC Chair
John Scannell, Regional Director-DCR Division of Water Supply Protection and Pat Austin, Environmental Quality, will be discussing watershed protection activities, aquatic invasives and reservoir modeling work with the University of Massachusetts at Wachusett Reservoir.
MWRA Briefs - Stephen Estes-Smargiassi
WSCAC Briefs: Whitney Beals and Lexi Dewey-Vote to increase executive committee membership, and information on the proposed route of the New England Scenic Trail through a section of the DCR Quabbin Reservation
THE NEXT WSCAC MEETING WILL BE HELD ON FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2010 AT THE QUABBIN RESERVOIR IN BELCHERTOWN
If you would like to receive WSCAC agendas and minutes by email, please email the WSCAC office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Agenda - Friday, April 16, 2010
Presentation: MWRA Budget Update and Challenges
If you would like to receive WSCAC agendas and minutes by email, please email the WSCAC office at email@example.com
Minutes of the March 19, 2010 Meeting
Report of meeting, March 24, 2010
Sue Beede, Mass Rivers Alliance; Tom Miner, Franklin County Reg. PB; Mason Phelps, Millers River Watershed; Dona Motts, MA League of WomenVoters; Jerry Eves, Pioneer Valley Trout Unlimited; Alice Clemente, Blackstone River; Bob Hoyt, Worcester Water Dept.; Russ Cohen, MA Dept. of Fish and Game; Andrea Donlon, CRWC-WSCAC; Martha Morgan, NRWA (Nashua); Martha Stevenson, Wilmington; Kate Stevenson, Guest; Paul Lauenstein, NepRWA; Linda Hutchins, DCR; Michael Gove, MWRA Board of Directors; Whit Beals, WSCAC Chair; Nancy Bryant , SuAsCo; Jonathan Yeo, DCR-DWSP; Jon Beekman, SEA; Stephen Estes-Smargiassi, MWRA; Margaret VanDeusen, CRWA.
Meeting agenda included a presentation on the EOEEA Sustainable Water Management Initiative with Linda Hutchins, Hydrologist with the DCR office of Water Resources, Margaret Van Deusen, Deputy Director and General Counsel of the Charles River Watershed Association, and Sue Beede, Policy Director of the MA Rivers Alliance. Following the presentation were MWRA briefs with Steve Estes-Smargiassi and WSCAC announcements.
No minutes needed approval.
Executive Committee has made the decision to appoint Lexi as our full-time – no long interim – executive director for WSCAC. Formal approval by the MWRA wasn’t needed, but the decision was endorsed by the agency.
Featured Presentation: Sustainable Water Management Initiative
Linda Hutchins: The talk for today is on sustainable water management in Massachusetts. I was asked by Lexi to give the presentation I gave at a joint meeting of the technical advisory board and the water management advisory committee that EPA set up – so I’m bringing background science that we’re putting into this Sustainable Water Management Initiative. But I’ve added some slides to offer context for the Initiative in Massachusetts.
Last fall DEP made an attempt to redefine safe yields in Massachusetts and put out some numbers, in response to a court case. There was a lot of upheaval regarding their proposals – and they were ordered to incorporate environmental considerations into safe yield. Safe yield’s definition, as per the Water Management Act, is the upper limit on a major basin (there are 27 major basins in Massachusetts) on how much water DEP can permit. So we reach that amount and no more permits – that’s how the regulations read. DEP never actually defined those safe yield numbers over the years. But in this recent court case related to permits, the judge sent down an edict that DEP must come back with safe yield numbers. So DEP did that – or made an attempt to – and a lot of different groups were dissatisfied with their numbers. So we were put on a road to redefine safe yield basically – and thus was born the Sustainable Water Management Initiative for the state that EOEEA is leading. This is what I'm calling the safe yield side – these are our building blocks for sustainable water management in Massachusetts. So on one side we have to redefine the safe yield values, which are within the Water Management Act in Massachusetts. We need to incorporate the environmental protection factor, we need to consider within the definition water availability, we want precipitation and drought conditions within the state so that we come up with a reliable amount of water for the permits, and we need a hydrologic foundation so we have a basis for setting those numbers. Today I'm going to be talking a lot about the science of the hydrologic foundation – the data we’re bringing to this initiative.
On the other side is allocation, which is the Water Management Act permits and how that water gets divided up among the basins and even within the basins; what are the limits to using that water. So again we need the hydrological foundation, and we have some recent studies that talk about the degrees of hydrologic alteration that exist in the state, and the amount of biological alterations – there is active research going on right now on these topics.
There has been some movement in Massachusetts to develop streamflow standards. There has been legislation filed by several environmental groups and there was discussion between agencies and environmental groups about how to accomplish that – which was also put into the Sustainable Water Initiative. So at the same time that we’re dealing with safe yield, we’re also going to be dealing with streamflow criteria, and stream classification. That’s the context for now.
We are well poised with the science to get into these topics to revamp the Water Management Act. The hope is that we can put all of this information together – take all this science we’ve got and put it through allocation methodologies in developing predictable permitting decisions. Right now DEP is charged with considering all kinds of things, environmental factors, water needs, competing uses, recreational, environmental., and it’s not clear exactly how that’s to be done. DEP has been understaffed and doing the best they can but it hasn’t been a real predictable process – so a water supplier doesn’t know what to expect. And there is really no demand in consistency from the regulators about how to apply all those factors that they’re supposed to be considering – so it hasn’t been a great situation for either side. And what we’re hoping to develop is these predictable permitting decisions.
One of the hundred things I do for DCR is serve as the liaison with the US Geological Survey Cooperative Program with the state on behalf of the Water Resources Commission, and through that program we’ve been doing a lot of science for about the past ten years that will end up supporting the Sustainable Water Management Initiative. So I want to talk about some of the projects that we’ve been working on during that time and I think you can start to imagine how the data we got can be plugged into some of these products we need to produce for the Initiative.
So a summary of my presentation is I'm going to talk a little bit about streamflow 101; the 2001 Mass stressed basins that you might’ve heard about; Mass index stream flows; sustainable yield estimator; and the current habitat studies.
Hydrology 101 – surface water, ground water, precipitation and clouds – there’s only so much to go around. In Massachusetts we have a relatively abundant amount of rainfall, about 48 inches per year state wide on average, on a steady basis over the course of the year. How that water transfers into streamflow is different – we don’t have equal amount of streamflow over the year because of various factors of which I’ll talk about. The water year begins in the fall, when we have a time of recharge because the plant life goes dormant. The plant life takes up a lot of water in the summer months, so in the fall when the plant life dies a lot more water makes it into the streams and ground to recharge. Fall and winter we have a moderate amount of flow, spring high amount of flow, and in the summer a very low amount of flow for that reason. We have a network of stream gages that the US Geological Survey operates for us – a cooperative program, it’s a 50/50 match. We have about 100 gages in rivers across the state. They measure stage, the river level and we translate that into a streamflow. Someone goes out about once a month and takes the actual streamflow measurement. It all gets correlated – the water height gets correlated to a flow – and this information is actually all available on the internet – updated about every 15 minutes.
A number of years ago in 2006, Secretary Herzfelder got some money to install about 20 new gages in the state. However, she got the money on a one-time basis. Recently, there was a big notice on the GSPS website in red, because we didn’t get the continued operating funds for these gages. Essentially, all the new gages that we gained. The state’s responsibility to staff those gages? It’s a 50/50 cost sharing– so we both pay into it, but USGS staff does the work. They can only match as much as we put in so they’ve been trying to stir up some attention to get funding. Due to funding cuts, USGS is going to lose critical streamflow information. But rather than lose long-term gages that have 30-50 years of record, the decision was made that we’d take a loss on the 20 new gages that only had a few years of information. We were short approximately $300,000 dollars per year. It’s not just the monitoring, it’s the data check and the publication and the fieldwork. If anyone knows of any money sources we’d love to know and rescue what we can.
In the winter we have moderate flows and a lot of the precipitation gets tied up in snow pack. We still get that 3 or 4 inches of rain but it comes in the form of 3 or 4 feet of snow that’s sitting on the ground and not getting into the rivers, so they have what we sometimes call a winter drought. The flows can be depressed when there’s long periods when that water isn’t getting into the rivers. But it’s very variable.
Spring of course the snow pack melts, we have a change in the weather pattern, we get some pretty heavy rains. When there is snow pack on the ground that can represent 8 inches of water that can all get released at one time and we get flooding. So although we get the same amount of rain or precipitation every month, the river flow is very variable across the year.
In the summer we have a lot of evapotranspiration especially in the wetlands, a much higher rate than the amount of precipitation, so not a lot goes into the streams except for those real hard thunderstorms. In the summer months the streams rely on base flow, which is the ground water that seeps into the stream – so when you see a river running in the summer and it hasn’t rained, its groundwater.
A principle of current thinking, from the Nature Conservancy, is to protect the natural flow – of course we won’t be able to get every drop of water that falls into the rivers, but if we can protect the shape of the hydrograph, mimic the hydrograph to the extent that we can, meaning it’s magnitude, frequency, duration and timing that are consistent with natural patterns. Our altered hydrologic cycle, especially in urban areas that don’t get the ground water recharge because of impervious surfaces like pavements, parking lots and buildings, goes into runoff into the storm drains and directly out through pipes into the rivers, so you get some flashiness in rivers whenever there’s a rainstorm. Flow impairments aren’t the only issue in Massachusetts rivers. There are water quality problems, water temperature issues (again when that water falls from the pavement into the rivers, it’s pretty warm in the summer). We also have over 3000 dams in the state that are causing connectivity problems with the fish in the rivers – they cannot get from point A to point B. Then there are plant species taking over and affecting things. So it’s not just about flow, but we do end up focusing a lot on flow.
In 2001 the Water Resources Commission developed the stressed basins designations programs, because they were mandated to identify places that were hydrologically weak or vulnerable and needed a little more protection and a little more environmental review. This was done with a group of stakeholders – and we didn’t have then what we have today (GIS data, etc.) but the committee recognized that we should address both flow quantity and quality, as well as stress designation, but the only place we had data was flow quantity from those USGS gages. We have water quality data, we have some aquatic habitat data, we didn’t have either one statewide and they were not available in a computerized database that you could quickly assimilate into an assessment. So what the Stressed Basins group did was looked at three low flow statistics for the USGS gages with a long period of record in the state, and compared those to each other and said the lowest low flow statistics are high stress, the highest low flow statistics are low stress, and everything in the middle is medium – so we just compared them to each other and said ok these are the most vulnerable rivers in the state and should get more review. So they produced a map statewide of what areas were and were not assessed. It drew a lot of criticism, still does today.
In 2004 you may remember the EOEA Mass Water Policy was put together with another big group of stakeholders, and had a few recommendations germane to our topics today. It recommended that we expand stress to include the biological and chemical water quality that we weren’t able to do in 2001, and develop target fish communities – so we’re trying to figure out how much water fish need in the river, and in order to do that we’re counting fish. We have a lot of fish data from sampling all over the state. We start looking at how many fish we have where, and are they the right ones so these target fish communities can help us to start comparing what we have to what we think we should have.
Some of the research I'm going to talk about has been done inter-agency, state agency, and with our cooperative agreement with USGS. All the state environmental agencies have been involved. In 2007, what I consider ground breaking work, was characteristics of our least altered stream gages in Massachusetts. It’s a bunch of statistics on what we consider to be our most natural unimpacted gages in the state, so we want to know what that hydrograph should look like in Massachusetts, what the annual streamflow should look like in the absence of alterations. And USGS did this for us, they did 61 index gages for us and spat out a bunch of statistics. The report also includes seasonal flows for fish bio-periods, so we’re starting to get at how much water the fish need in the river, what seasons, etc.
USGS set criteria and we were able to pick the gages. We actually had an earlier version of this in 2004 where we could only come up with 21 gages in the state. We had to go out of Massachusetts to get unaltered gages because so many of our periods are altered by human impact. They found some gages that had partial records and they could extend that record mathematically by looking at similar gages.
In 2008 the Water Resources Commission basically adopted those index stream flows from the USGS report and called those our reference flows. We added additional statistics and put those into our index stream flows document, where we publish the median of monthly means, which is similar to the US Fish and Wildlife Service standard, indicators of hydrologic alteration statistics into the program the Nature Conservancy recommends and has developed. And we did all these annual target hydrographs so now we know what our hydrographs should look like throughout the year in a natural condition. This is not to say that we demand that natural condition to be there, it’s not a regulatory standard at all, it’s just a point of reference from which other programs can draw. So there’s no regulatory pitch to this at all, it’s just information.
In 2009 the DEP and the USGS developed the Sustainable Yield Estimator (SYE) application, and it was built on index gages. So we said ok, now we know what natural stream flows look like around Massachusetts, we developed a point and click application where you can go into a map of the state, click on a river location, the program will draw the watershed around it, it will then use the index gages to calculate what the stream flow should look like – it will develop a daily hydrograph from 1960 – 2004 of what the river flow would expect to look like in that location. So it’s a location without a gage, and now we’re able to develop what we expect the stream flow should’ve been in that location. It’s also subtracting out water withdrawals from wells and adding in waste water discharges, so it’s kind of doing a little mini water balance on the fly. And what it’s giving you then is the altered and unaltered hydrographs and you can compare those. And the user can also click in and say what if I had a target stream flow I wanted to maintain, and it can tell you where you have more than enough flow and where you don’t. It’s a useful tool for DEP so they can start looking at how far off are we from where we’d like to be.
USGS worked with DCR and the Water Resources Commission in an attempt to update that stressed basin work from 2001, so we got together all the stakeholders and it was called the Stress Basin Reclassification Task Force. What it attempted to use was the sustainable yield estimator to estimate the natural flows and the impacted flows for a whole set of about 1400 little basins in the state, as well as a set of 12 watersheds, and it quantified for us the degree of alteration in about 9 different stream flow statistics and some land use statistics as well. So we now have a map of the state.
The estimator now allows us to see what’s really going on. It’s not perfect, there are a lot of limitations with it but I think it’s still far better than what we did in 2001 stress basins. It’s a computer model so there will be variations around it.
There are flow alteration statistics that the stakeholder group requested to be analyzed. There was concern about surface water withdrawals from the reservoirs and the effects on reservoirs in general, so there was another group of statistics that was done on an annualized basis because we didn’t feel we knew enough about all the reservoirs in the state to be able to predict their impacts on certain flows, except maybe on annual levels – so if you’re withdrawing more than a certain percentage of the annual recharge per basin that’s something we can talk about. But what happens month to month or day to day we really can’t estimate that. So these are the statistics we did that include surface water withdrawals from reservoirs.
USGS mapped places that had been assessed, only about 22% of river segments are actually assessed for water quality. What DEP does is target areas with potential water quality problems. So if there’s a lot of agriculture or industry, they target those areas. They don’t have the resources to sample the entire state. Then there is the effect of dams. Worcester County has the highest density of dams of any county in the country.
Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife developed a statewide map that showed how similar rivers are to what their expected/target fish are. We had a tiny bit of money and said what could we do with this to further our understanding of fish habitat needs and flow in the state? USGS and Fish & Wildlife put together a pilot study to see if we could tease out some of the relationships between land use, flow alteration and fish communities. They used three basins (we didn’t have the sustainable yield estimator at the time) and these were the Ipswich, the Blackstone, and the Sudbury. We looked at land uses like impervious cover, and then combined that with the fish community data that Fish & Wildlife had. We got some pretty good looking results so this study is being expanded state-wide right now. The fish and flow study as it is called, is revisiting the sustainable yield estimator, the GIS layers, and all the same factors we looked at in the Mass water indicators study are being run to generate those kinds of graphs and using the fish community data so we can see what the effects are of different alterations. Some of the more significant factors that the USGS are finding are that imperviousness and flow alterations are the factors having the biggest effects.
We were originally intending or expecting to get results from the study published in 2011 but once the sustainable water initiative started up there was a lot of heated interest in getting the results sooner, so we are getting a draft initial preliminary report from USGS and the draft is due mid-April (in two weeks) and a preliminary report is due in July so that we can use this within the sustainable water initiative. How much alteration can the fish tolerate? If you’ve got water withdrawals to the extent that your August flow is either reduced by withdrawals by more than 40% you’ve crashed the fluvial population. Taking out too much or putting in too much waste water will affect the fish population. That’s the end of my science presentation and the current status of our research data.
Sue Beede spoke briefly about the MS4 Stormwater Permit and free workshop.
Margaret van Deusen spoke on the Sustainable Water Management Initiative.
One of the things the WMA talks about is a list of criteria that DEP is to evaluate to determine reasonable protection of water quality, fisheries, and habitat. If in fact DEP is balancing economic use and water supply, I think in the past what’s happened is the environment was always the loser in the balancing. I think that’s changing and the goal of sustainable water management is, can we come up with ways including mitigation and offsets, how we manage our water supplies and impervious pavement, to actually have a system that is sustainable for all time. And that, from the environmental side, is really the goal here.
I think the question is how much can you alter streams and rivers and what can you do to close the gap. I sat at a WSCAC meeting a couple of years ago when Nestle came in and said we’ll abide by whatever conditions you put on our withdrawals. And I sat there thinking, wait until he finds out that we don’t really have any criteria or conditions on withdrawals. That’s the safe yield piece that’s playing out now because under the WMA, DEP has to deny a permit if safe yield is exceeded overall. DEP has always determined safe yield in relation to stream flow. The problem was that they had a methodology that plugged in a minimum stream flow number, (which for the Ipswich at least was way too low), and what we know from the scientists is it shouldn’t have been a flat-lined year round number. We do need frequency duration and timing as well. So when DEP came out with these new safe yields, they were all of the water that was available to allocate, so you had an allocation that would allow DEP under the WMA to allocate twice as much water, certainly that was true in the Charles.
We’re pleased that DEP has clarified safe yield to say that it does include environmental protection factors which includes the ecological health of rivers, as well as hydrologic factors. We can set goals for how our rivers ought to be managed, what they ought to look like, and it can be integrated into the regulatory process.
The interim safe yields have been done and DEP has issued permits in the Charles and the Blackstone based on an interim safe yield that doesn’t have an environmental component to it. DEP did issue interim safe yields in early December working with their water management advisory committee, and basically those interim safe yields said hold the line on withdrawals. They allowed a certain increase, like 1% in any permits for the next year for 2010, so it was a stop gap that held the line until this new long-term safe yield could be worked out this year.
Concerning restoration, there is MWRA water now in Reading, and Wilmington is taking half a million gallons a day. I think the answer is going to be how do we mitigate the impacts from impervious surfaces, can we put more storm water back in the ground in the right places, can we get the inflow and infiltration out of the pipes that are de-watering parts of eastern Massachusetts, and what about decentralized waste water. A lot of these centralized wastewater plants do have a life to them, and we can either rebuild them in the next 20, 30, 40 years or we can move to more decentralized systems that have a lot of other advantages including doing a much better job in terms of combined sewer overflows. I think there are answers but it takes a paradigm shift to get to those and they’re not easy solutions. There is a new water infrastructure study committee the legislature put together and it’s just starting to meet. Is it a gap analysis of funding vs. what needs to be done with traditional infrastructure or will they be able to look at green infrastructure and move Massachusetts more in that direction?
Question: If there is a basin-to-basin analysis and they find out that the safe yield definitely needs to be adjusted, will there be anything done with the registrations?
Margaret: The Supreme Judicial Court just ruled for the very first time on what registrations mean, and they said DEP, if they do it by regulation, can impose conservation requirements on registrants, but it appears from the language in the decision that the actual volumes that are registered in the state, and that is when the act was first passed, can be renewed every ten years in perpetuity. So the answer is, we can condition those withdrawals and DEP should, but it would probably require a legislative change to do anything else to reduce those registered volumes. And what happens with the safe yield issue is many registrants aren’t withdrawing their full registered volumes.
Steve Estes-Smargiassi: Martin Pillsbury presented the detailed data on where towns were going waterwise and the majority of the towns were decreasing, a sizeable fraction stayed the same, and the smallest fraction were the towns where water demand was increasing, which is generally true across the entire country. Nationwide water use is down. Data from across the whole country, wet-dry regions, north-south, east-west, and on a gross per capita basis from 85 onwards, folks were seeing a 10 – 20% with Massachusetts and New York leading the way with about a 30% decrease. And that’s because of the things that we talked about earlier. Every new home uses less water than an old home. Every time a homeowner or business upgrades a process or a bathroom or a kitchen, the new dishwasher, the new toilet, the new faucet, the new showerhead, they use less water for the same functionality.
Question: Does that include water strictly for agricultural use?
Steve: Agricultural use is down as well, and that makes sense because of energy prices. Most agricultural use is pumped water, so if you're in the central part of the country, the wheat belt, all that agricultural water is very sensitive to the cost of energy. On a two fold basis – one they’re mining that water so every year they’re going deeper, so there’s a separate environmental problem out there or an agricultural problem as in they’re mining historical water, but their water use is down because they’re paying more and more for it year after year.
Comment (Russ Cohen): Everything you said is accurate. But we have to look at when people are using the water and how people are using the water. With plumbing codes we’re seeing an overall reduction in the average annual use, but we still see spikes in the summer during the dry weather when people are out watering their lawns, and that is the time when the environment can least afford to give up any additional water. I think it’s encouraging that we’re being more efficient in general but I still think that masks this seasonal and site specific problem that continues to occur. There are going to be opportunities for additional storage that we should definitely look at because if the natural environment can’t afford to give it up when we need it, we need to store it when there’s a lot of water around.
Whit: I apologize I need to leave to get back to my office for a meeting there. But before I do I wanted to do two things, one to recognize Mike Gove’s presence here. He’s a member of the MWRA board from the donor basin. He’s very active, knows and supports what we do, and it’s great to have him here. I think he would like to get to our meetings occasionally and we thank him for that. And second, we’re losing an executive committee member and a WSCAC committee member, John Beekman, who has been with us from close to the start. He can’t remember. But he’s brought an interesting perspective to a lot of our discussions. Eileen swore, several times, that her retirement was not due to John’s active participation at the meetings, but we hope that in fact he gets to meetings occasionally. He’s trying to disengage himself from professional work and spend more time in his farm in Maine. But John we thank you for all your good work.
Sue Beede on the Sustainable Water Management Initiative:
The next topic was river classification and the need to figure out river classification before you get into stream flow criteria. We had excellent presentations from the Nature Conservancy on work that has been done in other states, specifically Connecticut, Maine, Michigan and also on a regional scale TNC did a big classification project for the entire northeast US. Todd Richards from Fish and Game gave good background on the fish and habitat study. We don’t want to treat rivers all the same and have one hydrologic standard. You would categorize rivers and streams into different types depending on their physical attributes such as the size of the drainage area, the slope of the stream channel and because the state has excellent fish data, bring that into the equation as well.
The path we’re on at the moment is towards developing a river and stream classification system that resembles what has been adopted in the state of Michigan which takes biology into account. Massachusetts like Michigan has an excellent fisheries database. There was agreement amongst members of the technical subcommittee that we should not use a one size fits all approach to classify rivers and developing stream flow criteria, but that we should categorize rivers and streams into different types and base our stream flow criteria on those specific types.
MWRA BRIEFING-Steve Estes-Smargiassi
I thought maybe I’d talk about the past couple of weeks of weather and hold off talking about some of the stuff we’re doing on redundancy planning, where we are with UV installation and design, and a conversation we should spend a chunk of time on which is the results of the facilitated discussion on system expansion from earlier this month. That deserves more time than we can give.
Quabbin is not quite 100% but we have the lower spillway open so we’re spilling water out at a fair pace at Quabbin, 130 million gallons each day but it’s not quite full. If you go out the back door, at the dam we’re spilling about 12 million gallons a day here, and we’ve also been releasing about 100 to the river, we’re trying to keep the reservoir from filling much further and spilling dramatically during a rainstorm and causing more damage downstream.
Wachusett is the real exciting story. Last week on Monday we were spilling at a rate of 2.2. billion gallons per day coming over the top of the spillway. That’s a lot of water! This reservoir here holds 6.5 or 7 billion gallons. On Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, we spilled as much water as we hold back in this reservoir out of Wachusett. Bad news for that is that we did flood our own waste water treatment plant. There was too much wastewater coming into the Clinton treatment plant. Clinton lost control of their collection system and they’re still flowing at more than twice than what they’d normally be flowing at. Last weekend you probably read in the newspaper that we did spill a small amount of wastewater, 10 or 12 million gallons spilled into Boston harbor. As that was happening we were pumping into the Deer Island plant and treating over 1.3 billion gallons. The alternative was flooding out the plant. The water got all the way to the floor elevation and a couple minutes later we had to open the gates for a few minutes otherwise the station would have had to go offline and we would have suffered a lot of damage and perhaps been discharging untreated waste for 3, 4 or 5 weeks as we did repairs. It was a tough decision, always, but it was the right decision. If you read the Globe article all the way to the end as opposed to just the headline, all of the principle environmental folks said that was the right choice – a controlled spill of a small amount is way better than putting wastewater into peoples’ basements or flooding out the plant. Last week we had about 72 hours of continuous rain between 10 – 12 inches depending on which rain gage you looked at. By contrast a typical March might be 4.5-5 inches.
At the Deer Island plant last weekend, and we do keep track of the maximum total flow through the plant, we hit a record. On a dry day we treat 350 million gallons a day. The plants designed for 1.2 billion. We exceeded over that 24 hr period over 1.3 billion gallons that flowed through the plant. It’s a record we hope not to exceed! Everything flat out, and while doing that, not all the flow coming in from the metro area was coming through the plant. There were lots of places throughout the metropolitan area where communities were not able to get rid of all of the wastewater. We typically look at storms by the 24 hour period, what’s the most intense one hour. But 72 hours of pretty much solid rain on frozen wet ground made for very little infiltration.
South Boston tunnel, not yet in operation, is for the north Dorchester Bay Area which is the south basin side of South Boston basically and that ring of beaches that goes around north Dorchester bay. And that tunnel’s designed to pick up all of the combined sewage from that part of south Boston. The idea is that that shock absorber, will capture that flow and lead it out to Deer Island when the storm is over, preventing overflows of either storm water, which pollutes the beaches, or combined overflows so that the beaches will be less affected by rainfall. We still have to finish the pump station and all the other facilities and it probably would not have helped. It would have delayed the overflows in this storm because it would have filled up during the storm. This substantially exceeded a 25 year frequency storm which is the maximum it’s able to hold. But in fact, in a 25 year storm, depending on the intensity, the streets flow downhill because the catch basins are designed for roughly a 25 year storm. This was a really impressive storm.
Lexi: The April WSCAC meeting is a joint meeting with the Waste Water Advisory Committee on the MWRA budget with Kathy Soni and Tom Durkin. Location is the Advisory Board office on 11 Beacon Street in Boston.
Introduction-Whitney Beals, WSCAC Chair
I. Presentation on the EOEEA Sustainable Water Management Initiative with: Linda Hutchins, Hydrologist with DCR-Office of Water Resources
II. MWRA Briefs: Steve Estes-Smargiassi
III. WSCAC Briefs: Whitney Beals and Lexi Dewey
If you would like to receive WSCAC agendas and minutes by email, please email the WSCAC office at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE NEXT WSCAC MEETING IS A JOINT WAC/WSCAC MEETING IN BOSTON AT THE MWRA ADVISORY BOARD FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2010
The next WSCAC Executive Committee meeting will be on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 in Southborough. WSCAC has not scheduled a meeting in February.
Agenda - Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Minutes of the WSCAC meeting May 20, 2009
Presenter: Peter Hechenbleikner, Town Manager, Town of Reading, speaking on Reading’s experience in joining the MWRA water system and how this may inform the experience of other communities.
Pete Hechenbleikner recounted the history of Reading joining the MWRA water system, and a general discussion ensued concerning that experience, and lessons to be drawn for other communities that wish to join the MWRA.
Hechenbleikner recapped the long road to MWRA buy-in, starting with the 1999 Reading water committee’s three main recommendations: that the town embark on a significant water conservation program; that they build a new water treatment plant (due to high iron and manganese); and that the town get supplemental water from MWRA in the summer. The situation evolved, however, and eventually it became apparent that it would be very costly to treat the town’s water (with the last estimate of treatment plant costs at $26m), so the decision to apply for full supply from the MWRA was made. It was noted that this caused some difficulties for the WRC, since in the first application it was stated that the Town’s wells were operational, and that the only need was for summer water, but then in the second application, it was stated that the wells could no longer serve the town. By this time, however, the projected costs of treatment had increased so much that the Town was able to join under those provisions of the Interbasin Transfer Act that allow cost as a consideration. The sticking point for WSCAC, however, was the less clearly defined need for the Town to be granted full supply from the MWRA.
One of the objectives of the meeting was to determine whether there were lessons from the Reading experience that could inform the process as other towns join the system. Hechenbleikner expressed how it had been a source of frustration to feel that Reading was trying to do the right thing, but yet to have the joining process be long and arduous. Their water use was 55 gpcd before joining; they were doing annual leak detection and had a water conservation program. Unaccounted for water is now less than 10%. It was frustrating that by the time the town got around to the second application for full membership, water use in the system was even less. The need to explore every possible avenue for local water supplies may not have been necessary, given that it was extremely unlikely that DEP would have approved any local source.
It was pointed out that in some ways, the process needs a high degree of scrutiny, since the Interbasin Transfer Act is a license to replumb the state in perpetuity. However, rolling the MEPA application and the application to MWRA into one can streamline the process. Relying a single donor-basin analysis that approves a bulk amount of water to be sold, as has been done with the Aquaria desalinization plant, can also reduce the amount of work required of the applicant community.
There was some discussion of how the Interbasin Transfer Act, which was primarily designed to keep MDC from taking water from the Connecticut River, may no longer be the best tool for setting water policy in the state, as it does not balance the environmental benefits that may accrue to the eastern part of the state with the taking of water from the west.
As for the current proposal to implement smart growth conditions for MWRA system expansion, Hechenbleikner stated that Reading probably would have considered itself to be a community that adheres to such principles, had they been considered when the town joined MWRA. Water and energy conservation and ease of access to public transportation are all actively promoted in Reading.
Outcomes for the town have been positive since joining the MWRA. Flows in the Ipswich appear to have improved somewhat, although the status and conclusions of USGS monitoring is unclear. Anecdotally, it appears that the Middleton gage shows an improvement, where exceedance of a critical low-flow threshold has been less frequent than when the wells were operational. Hechenbleikner stated that although water rates rose substantially (at 30% increase in one year), there have been virtually no complaints. The town has benefited by preserving land and rediscovering its waterfront on the Ipswich River. Development of recreational trails along the river has been supported by all. The town has been required to keep the old wells operational, however, even though it is highly unlikely they will ever again be used. This has involved past and ongoing expense in water treatment plant decommissioning and periodic well flushing. This precipitated a discussion about how to best protect land critical to water supply from development even if water supplies are no longer being used.
Joe’s MWRA Advisory Board Update
Favaloro thanked WSCAC for its letter of support on instituting an excise tax on bottled water. WAC had also written a letter. The future of the excise tax proposal was not looking particularly bright, and neither was the related proposal to expand the deposit on bottles to bottled water by including it in the budget. The House had rejected this and prospects for getting it in the Senate budget were not good. Bottle bills separate from the legislative budget process are still alive and may have some chance of passing.
The upcoming Advisory Board meeting was to unveil proposals for the MWRA to cut $100 million from the Capital Budget and reduces rate review requirement by at least $100 million over the next four years. The Advisory Board is providing a “toolbox” to help support such cuts. For now, the citizen advisory committees continue to be funded and are not part of the proposed reductions. Additional water sales associated with system expansion of 12 mgd are part of a possible solution.
Steve Estes-Smargiassi update
Steve informed the committee that several big projects nearing completion, including the Blue Hills storage tank, which will improve operations and water delivery to the Southern High service area. The Board of Directors has been discussing the need for additional storage at Spot Pond.
They are also moving along on the UV disinfection projects at Quabbin (estimated completion date 2012) and the Carroll Treatment Plant (estimated completion date 2014). Steve has been analyzing carbon footprints, and recently figured out that the energy use footprint of tap water is one ten-thousandth that of bottled water.
There are other milestones: Wilmington is now fully through the process of joining the MWRA, with approval votes in town meeting and the legislature accomplished. The process was first discussed in 1991.
Minutes of the April 22, 2009 joint WSCAC and WAC meeting
Steven Greene, Ed Bretschneider, Cindy Delpapa, Margaret Kearns, Heidi Ricci, Alice Clemente, Sue Bass, Jon Beekman, Martin Pillsbury, Jeanne Richardson, Tom Miner, Bob Hoyt, Kurt Tramposch, Amanda Davis, Whitney Beals, Mary Adelstein, Michael Baram, Vandana Rao, Kathy Baskin, Pam Heidell, Bob Zimmerman, Stephen E-S, Phil Guerrin, Karen Lackmeyer, Paul Lauenstein
Speakers: Phil Guerrin, Director of Environmental Systems, Worcester DPW, Bob Hoyt, Worcester Filtration Plant Manager
Phil said he was pleased to be addressing WSCAC and that the last time he’d been to a WSCAC meeting was back when water use was at 320 million gallons per day. He came to speak about the Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship, which is a group of about 28 municipalities and entities from all over the state that share concerns about the NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permitting process. They’ve recently formally established themselves as a non-profit with a board of director. MWRA Advisory Board is a member; MWRA the organization has participated in meetings and shown interest. Bob Boylan is president of the CWRS.
The group advocates for regulated community on matters related to NPDES permitting and the Clean Water Act. But not limited to that; it plans to be all-encompassing water resources organization that comments on a variety of issues. Goal is to raise public awareness about permitting and what it means for ratepayers who are forced to fund multi-million dollar projects.
The group objects to unreasonable and costly unfunded mandates; seeks real environmental improvements by making cost-benefit and cost-related considerations a permit requirement; and hopes to restore the partnership that once existed in the CWA – a partnership that was responsible for some of the greatest environmental improvements seen in this country. The group was formed out of frustration with DEP, EPA: process lends to great costs with very little consideration of who pays. Agencies don’t communicate what they are trying to do or the science behind it, and don’t communicate with each other. They don’t have to face a ratepayer, while DPW directors have to face the wrath of ratepayer and public officials. Raising rates is assumed to be easy, but such is not the case.
Some points of concern:
Actions taken by CWRS:
April 2008 met with the whole MA congressional delegation and Region I EPA officials to talk about issues. They were then directed to meet with DEP, EPA to try and work out differences. Then kicked off 8 monthly meetings from May – December 2008. They also lobbied the federal delegation, the state, and the Obama administration for stimulus money for water and wastewater projects.
Recommendations of the whitepaper:
Jon Beekman asked whether permit conditions really address the sources of deterioration in water quality. Are there other means and methods that should be considered? Phil responded that yes, it’s important to look at what will give the biggest bang for the buck. There’s an obligation to ratepayers to act effectively.
Phil continued that realistic expectations are important. Rivers that were grossly degraded over the last 200 years have been vastly restored since 1970’s - but how much better can they get? Are we looking for salmon to be swimming up every river in MA? Or should we be more realistic? If a community invests hundreds of millions to build a new plant back when the CWA was new, they got results that were noticeable to the ratepayer. Now the game has changed – we are trying to fine-tune rivers, trying to get nutrient levels down in the parts-per-million range. Ratepayers want to see results – but they won’t see results if phosphorus goes from 0.75 to 0.5 ppm– maybe algae will decrease in frequency, maybe not. You won’t see changes driving by the river, though.
There is a need for creative permitting, nutrient trading, flow-based permits. Connecticut is doing nitrogen trading. EPA tried this approach in the Assabet, but communities were not interested. Massachusetts should assume primacy for permitting, as it is only one of four states without it. DEP has agreed to explore primacy. As for watershed-based permitting, there is a section of the CWA that permits this, but when this was tried, deadlines weren’t met and now it’s ignored. Another issue: each EPA region interprets the CWA differently so there’s a different CWA for every part of the country. What is the need? What is the problem?
Other issues that still remain as issues of contention: EPA says, CWA doesn’t allow them to consider cost of compliance as a factor in issuing permits. As a way around this, there is the “use attainability analysis” language – a complex approach that can be used to loosen water quality standards when a community can’t meet them. It’s only been used once in the state, on an MWRA CSO issue. Current affordability criteria asks if sewer costs add up to more than 2% of household median income – but even in the poorest community in the state, Holyoke, this criteria isn’t met.
Phil went on to say that too much time is being spent in court by both municipalities and environmentalists, appealing permits. There is not enough real progress, the benefits accrued are sketchy, and every five to seven years they have to go though this turmoil again. He finished by mentioning that the National Association of Clean Water Agencies recently gave a national environmental achievement special recognition award to the CWRS for its work advocating reforms to the CWA. He also asked that no one throw anything at him.
Ed Bretschneider asked, is this a debate about process vs outcome, in that sometimes tightening up process may help but can’t measure the results very well? Phil answered, that’s a fair summation- everyone is concerned with outcomes. But maybe there are other ways you can get the same result. At the end of the day, is the environment actually improved.
Whit Beals commented that he applauded the CWRS for trying to bring common sense into a process that has achieved a life of its own. Legislation like the CWA needs checkpoints to ask if it is it still working. Just examining the global footprint of water treatment is an adequate reason. What are the prospects for getting the federal government to help reduce burden?
Phil responded that the federal government has been avoiding the issue. Ironically, there’s more money for these kinds of issues now, because once we get into an economic crisis, all of a sudden there’s trillions of dollars for anything you want, when for decades we’ve been told there’s no money.
Mary Booth asked what Phil could say about the relative importance of point versus non-point source pollution in rivers – are point sources carrying more than their share of the load for expected reductions in pollutant loading? Phil answered that the big point source cleanups were in the past, but now, stormwater and agricultural loading are recognized as important sources of pollution. Also, physical factors, like sediments and impoundments that slow water and allow algal buildup, play a role in reducing dissolved oxygen in rivers.
Sue Bass commented that she lives in the Mystic River watershed, which is degraded. She disagrees that the current situation is acceptable, even though water quality is better than in the past. In Belmont, old and decrepit sewer pipes leak into storm drains. Shouldn’t the taxpayers/ratepayers be paying to fix these up? This is the responsibility of localites, not the federal government.
Mike Baram remarked that Phil had described a complex system, but it is part of an even bigger system. Many rivers - 60 – 70% now – are impaired, many because of reduced streamflow. The Water Management Act should control groundwater pumping and the viability of rivers, but DEP has not been enforcing the Safe Yield provisions of the WMA since 1991, although there are now two court decisions ordering them to do it. Blaming federal government isn’t enough – the state needs to be doing more active water management.
Phil responded that indeed this was another piece of puzzle; however, the broad generalization that low streamflow is due to pumping is only true some places. Safe yield is a very complex thing, and there is no one magic number for a basin. Bob Hoyt pointed out here that in fact most are not taking more water, they’re reducing their use.
Bob Zimmerman noted that it’s easy to silo water into wastewater, water supply, stormwater as if they were unrelated. Worcester says it’s too expensive to fix their wastewater problems, or stormwater problems, but have only approached the issues using conventional solutions. The answer would be to use a “green skin” approach to reinfiltrate wastewater. He went on to say that 8% of energy is spent pumping and treating water, but then we throw it – the equivalent of two Charles Rivers annually as infiltration and stormwater. So his question was, what is Worcester going to get behind? How about capturing stormwater and reinfiltrating, which would help wastewater treatment plants reduce nutrients. In the Charles, 50% of phosphorus is from stormwater runoff. But no one is lining up behind the new stormwater regulations – instead, they’re fighting them. Massachusetts is finishing its second desalination plant, which uses massive amounts of energy to strip salt from seawater and pump it uphill – all in a state that gets four feet of water a year. Who is going to address these problems?
Phil responded that it’s not fair to characterize Massachusetts as behind the times since the state is a leader in conservation. But old infrastructure is a big problem. Efforts at recharge are taking off, and in the big picture, water use has declined 75 to 90 mgd. In many communities, water use is decreasing – how much effort do we make to reduce use further where it is already declining? Is this a good use of money, since it will drive rates up further?
Heidi Ricci, representing MACC, the Rivers Alliance, and Audubon, stated that she agrees with the need to use a watershed approach and the need to get rid of the silos. Let’s find ways to work together, and stop saying we can’t afford it. The response to DEP stormwater regulations has been disappointing, with the business community saying they can’t afford to take the necessary steps, even though there are actually cheaper ways to deal with it (low impact development) than they claim. We all pay when water is polluted. The economy could grow with more clean recreational water options and property values would increase. She stated she does not agree we should lower standards – if anything, we need to be looking for new problems, for instance pharmaceuticals in wastewater, which are associated with problems in amphibian populations This is the canary in the coalmine.
Jon Beekman stated that he agreed with Bob Zimmerman, that the silo issue is biggest problem. His thought is that the state is too near the ocean – routing stormwater away has been too easy, and now we’re paying. That, and deferred maintenance issues are coming to a head. Would it be possible to use something like Section 70 funds (where water suppliers reimburse DEP 8 mils on what they pump) to generate money for maintenance?
Mary Booth stated that the problem with saying ratepayers don’t perceive improvements in water quality doesn’t change the fact that there is a biological “bottom line” out there and if we want to preserve functioning ecosystems, the perception argument is a red herring. Maybe the environmental community needs to communicate better what actual improvements in water quality mean. It seems that there is much agreement on the need to do good permitting, and if the CWRS would step away from talking about lowering standards, quite a bit of progress working with the environmental community could be achieved. Lowering water quality standards when climate change will exacerbate existing problems of nutrients, low dissolved oxygen, etc, is going in the wrong direction.
Tom Miner stated that he was concerned that so much of the CWRS mission was about lowering standards. For the Connecticut River, many problems were only dealt with once communities were under consent orders. It seems like the CWRS is talking to itself just like environmental groups talk to themselves. He would feel more comfortable if there were some environmental organiztions at the table working on effective protection. Otherwise, we’ll look at you guys as someone we have to do battle with. They should be on your board, and be part of the process.
Bob Hoyt then presented some perspectives from the water supply side, with a presentation that gave an overview of impressions of EPA’s regulatory role. With a background in laboratory science Bob stated that EPA’s regulatory limits are not always based on the best available science. He gave examples of bad regulation where EPA has sometimes required water suppliers to test for chemicals at the limits of detection and regulate on that. He also related an incident where EPA required Worcester to change to an iron-based coagulant for impurities in drinking water, rather than an aluminum-based coagulant, because the discharge water had high levels of aluminum. However, EPA was requiring them to treat the water to a lower level of aluminum than was already present in untreated water from a protected source.
There was then some more discussion. Salient points are summarized:
Bob Z: pigs really are flying, agree with Steve E-S. On the climate change issue, there are 900 scientific papers and not one denies it’s anthropogenic. Yet we are still debating. Same with water – TMDLs are based on great science – yet they are in court with “you guys” where they have lost in every single venue so far. Why still arguing? Let’s find different ways to charge for water. Not going to have useful conversations in front of the judge. Charles River Watershed Association is ready to sit down if they’d like to get together.
Mary Adelstein: when you take away the carrots, people start behaving like unpegged lobsters. We need money to pay for projects and also as incentives for good behavior. All the problems started when the federal government stopped paying.
Jon Beekman having served as appointed, elected, and hired official. Standing before city council to ask for money to put into invisible infrastructure rather than a school is not easy. It’s not the water superintendant who says we’re not going to do this stuff, it’s the officials. It’s been thrown aside. Poor communities have biggest problems. Prop 2 ½ messed up the utilities more than anything. Chemical costs up 400% last year.
Karen Lackmeir: Big issue – who pays for cleanup. Putting cost on ratepayers doesn’t work. Demand down. Not inelastic. Also, what is a contaminant? Issue will become more complex.
The presentation part of the meeting then concluded, and Ed Bretschneider gave an overview of the MWRA Advisory Board bottle bill that was submitted to the state legislature, which would charge a five-cent tax on each bottle sold, with revenues ($65 million) going to water and sewer infrastructure. Chicago has such a program. Jon Beekman pointed out that such a tax does nothing to reduce litter.
Steve E-S updated everyone that at the last Board of Directors meeting. Wilmington was approved finally as a member of the MWRA, contingent on town meeting and legislative approval. The amount is about one-third of what their Interbasin Act transfer was approved for.
Mary Booth announced that MWRA has decided to hold a moderated forum on system expansion, following submission of a letter from WSCAC which was followed by a letter of support from MWRA Board member John Carroll.
Finally, Tom Miner read a piece of Fred Laskey’s letter of appreciation for the contributions of Jonathan Souweine to the MWRA Board. Jonathan recently passed away after a battle with cancer. He will always be remembered for the critical role he played in shifting focus away from diversion of Connecticut River water to conservation.
Meeting Minutes: March 25, 2009
Present: WSCAC: Whitney Beals, Chair., Mary Booth, Exec. Director, Lexi Dewey, Administrator, MWRA: Michael Hornbrook, Chief Operating Officer, Steve Estes-Smargiassi and Pam Heidell, MWRA Advisory Board: Joseph Favaloro, Exec. Director and Matt Romero, Jon Beekman, SEA Inc.; Alice Clemente, At-large; Mark Lamberty, TU designee; Paul Lauenstein, NepRWA; Tom Miner, FRCOG; Martha Morgan, NWRA designee; Martin Pillsbury, MAPC; Jeanne Richardson, BWSC; Dick Seder, Kurt Tramposch, SuAsCo designee, and Andre Leroux, Exec. Director of the MA Smart Growth Alliance
The meeting report of the January 21, 2000 was approved.
Featured Presentation I: Smart Growth Alliance Executive Director, Andre Leroux
The Smart Growth Alliance is made up of seven nonprofit organizations joined together to promote Smart Growth in MA. Alliance members are: the Boston Society of Architects, Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Environmental League of MA, Fair Housing of Greater Boston, MA Association of Community Development Corp., and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The Alliance promotes healthy and diverse communities, protects critical environmental resources and working landscapes, advocates for housing and transportation choices, and supports equitable community development and urban reinvestment.
Andre Leroux’s power point presentation began with the word scarcity and the fact that we no longer have unlimited resources. Massachusetts is experiencing higher unemployment, increased foreclosures, higher energy costs and public debt, a lack of transportation choices, traffic congestion, rising health care and education costs and the need to address our use of finite resources. Smart Growth serves as a bridge for conversation across different interests and as a participatory process that brings various groups of people together to determine the type of communities they want to live in.
Leroux highlighted the city of Lawrence, MA as an example of the smart growth process. Reviviendo Gateway Initiative is bringing together focus groups from the city to determine how a mill complex can become a neighborhood. Reconnecting people to place and the natural systems that sustain community fosters innovation in housing, transportation choices, proximity to services and savings in infrastructure costs.
One of the myths about smart growth is that it is about no growth. Leroux counters that the choice is between managing growth intelligently or allowing it to proceed haphazardly. Data show that large lot zoning and traditional subdivision regulations are responsible for loss of open space, inefficient and expensive infrastructure, depletion of natural resources and traffic congestion. Large homes on large lots is what has been being built. Current surveys show about one-third of the home buying market wants a smart growth product: attached housing units and detached units on smaller lots.
In addition to housing, transportation choice is an important goal toward encouraging “systems thinking” which looks at mobility, connectivity and proximity. The opportunity to choose walking, biking and dependable public transportation in addition to driving will ease congestion, encourage proximity to public services, increase mobility and highlight connectivity between multiuse areas.
What do housing and transportation have to do with the MWRA? The Smart Growth Alliance believes that fostering smart growth criteria in our communities is crucial to sustainably managing the state’s water resources. Promoting zoning reform that encourages compact communities with low impact development, higher housing density, mixed use and pedestrian friendly choices will be less taxing on our water resources.
In partnership with Smart Growth principles, the Commonwealth has the ability to require water conservation and reuse through leak detection, infrastructure improvements, plumbing retrofits, the reduction of inefficient aspects of water use such as lawn watering, and keeping groundwater, wastewater and stormwater local. The goal is to replicate, not alter, the natural hydrological cycle as much as possible.
These goals call for collaboration between municipalities, the Legislature, the state’s water resources agencies and environmental groups throughout Massachusetts. As the largest wholesaler of water, the MWRA has an important role to play in the protection and sale of the state’s water.
Russ Cohen brought up the issue of equitability between communities and their water use. If there are existing water constraints in a community before being admitted to the MWRA water system, what happens to water use after hooking up?
Paul Lauenstein mentioned the town of Stoughton who, after being admitted to MWRA, brought in several big box stores to the community.
Joe Favaloro prefaced his remarks by saying that he served on the planning board for 14 years in his urban community. He said, “The discussion belongs in the community, not in the MWRA board room. I support smart growth but I don’t think that the executive director of the advisory board or my 47 water communities ought to be put in the position to determine what is smart for anyone in this room.”
Mary Booth said she would like to clarify two things that had been said in Andre’s presentation concerning the MWRA. “It is not universally accepted including DEP that the safe yield of the system is 300 mgd, but if indeed it is 300 mgd, it is dependent on full taking of Ware River water.” She noted that there is a need for a science-based discussion. What is the amount that should be released to help naturalize flows on the rivers and restore downstream habitat. What is the amount that is actually needed for sale, and what is the amount that should be kept in abeyance for the future impacts of climate change. “It is very tough to wag this dog with the tail of MWRA. This is a much bigger problem and the state needs to engage with this in a systematic way and ask the question, where does MWRA water fit into the picture of state resources as a whole?”
Martin Pillsbury noted that this question was the approach that the Smart Growth Alliance actually started with and they are still advocating for it.
For more details, Andre Leroux’s presentation is available for download (Download "Smart Growth" Presentation - 2.75 MB PDF).
Presentation II-Michael Hornbrook, Chief Operating Officer for the MWRA
Mike Hornbrook began his presentation by saying the MWRA has water to sell due to successful conservation efforts and declining water use in the existing MWRA service area. In addition, stream flows below MWRA Wachusett and Quabbin Reservoirs have complied with or exceeded permit expectations and MWRA has increased discharges in recent years. The War Dept. permit requires that during the period June 1-Nov. 30, when flows in the Ct. River at Montague are less than 4900 cubic feet per second (cfs) but more than 4650 cfs, the release from Quabbin Reservoir into the Swift must be 45 mgd. When flows fall below 4650 at Montague, the release from Quabbin into the Swift must be 71 mgd. When flows are above 4900 cfs at Montague, the 1927 Acts of MA govern; the 1927 Acts require 20 mgd at Bondsville.
Due to MWRA’s reservoir storage capabilities at Quabbin and Wachusett, reducing or replacing withdrawals from stressed river basins to help reduce low-flow conditions can be part of a regional water management approach.
Expansion of the MWRA water supply system is currently being discussed with the Authority potentially providing 12 mgd to new communities meeting the admission criteria and subject to regulatory approvals under an expedited approval process. The current admission process can be duplicative and lengthy Mike noted, thus the idea of an expedited approval process. This process under MEPA and the Interbasin Transfer Act (ITA) is being considered with an option that includes a single donor basin EIR which would satisfy both the ITA and MWRA’s Admission Policy, OP #10. Downstream releases and other environmental enhancements would be addressed at the same time.
A second option is a single EIR analysis for up to six pre-identified multiple receiving communities. This would reduce the cost and time line for review. A SWAT team of EOEEA/WRC/DEP/DCR/MWRA staff could provide assistance to the communities in gathering documentation to meet the conservation and viable sources criteria required by the ITA and the WRC.
A third option is a reinterpretation of “A Determination of Insignificance,” regulations followed by the WRC to evaluate transfers. Transfers of 1 mgd or less could be found to be insignificant if certain criteria are met thus shortening the level of review.
Mike then addressed some of the options and issues under consideration at MWRA surrounding Smart Growth. There is concern that expansion of MWRA’s water supply system could lead to sprawling development. In talks with EOEEA, a variety of approaches are being discussed. Those communities that are largely built-out, are only requesting a negligible amount of water, or those simply replacing local water supply sources, might be exempt from meeting additional smart growth criteria. For communities unable to consider the above exemptions, having in place a zoning bylaw that encourages higher building densities, mixed-use districts and cluster residential design create the opportunity for smart growth development.
A third option noted was a flexible hybrid system where the MWRA would make a finding that water sales to a new community were in partnership with regulatory practices and Sustainable Development Principles. Communities would need to show that they had adopted practices to plan for and promote the preservation and protection of environmental resources, minimize waste and encourage development that conserves open space and utilizes good design. Documentation would be required as well as the integration of state policy and Executive Order 385. MEPA review and comments by the regional planning agencies would also be incorporated in the process. While it is acknowledged that one size does not fit all, with interagency coordination and flexibility, smart growth practices could be put in place in communities who want to join the MWRA water system.
Mike addressed the options and issues on habitat and fisheries. He said that to meet water supply and quality objectives, water releases from the reservoirs can’t mimic natural flow regimes. However, MWRA and EOEEA are considering several opportunities to enhance stream flow in the Nashua River by possibly removing the Quinapoxet River Dam. This would open the river for migration and spawning of fresh water salmon.
The MWRA could also provide a direct piped connection to the McLaughlin State Fish Hatchery in Belchertown. The pipeline would resolve the issue of warm water spills and the threat of fish kills by taking water from the lower elevations of the Quabbin.
Mike’s update on MWRA energy options included discussion of hydropower at Wachusett Dam with the installation of a new minimum flow turbine at the dam’s lower gatehouse. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative has awarded MWRA a $375,000 design and construction grant for this project.
There have been discussions about the redevelopment of hydropower at the Winsor Dam at Quabbin since the hydroelectric facilities were damaged by fire in 1991. Relicensing the facility under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is required and it was suggested by state and federal agencies that the War Dept./Corps permit be reopened. MWRA feels that this process could bring about uncertain regulatory outcomes and result in requirements for additional and significant releases that may have a negative impact on the water supply and quality.
Stimulating questions by WSCAC members and visitors followed on both presentations. Joe Favaloro and Steve Estes-Smargiassi gave brief updates and the meeting adjourned at 1:00 PM.
Meeting Minutes: January 21, 2009
In Attendance: Alice Clemente, Matthew Romero, Jon Beekman, Martha Morgan, Paul Lauenstein, Andrea Donlon, Eileen Simonson, Dick Seder, Bob Hoyt, Mary Booth, Jonathan Yeo, Lexi Dewey, Whitney Beals, Mason Phelps, Tom Miner, Martin Pillsbury, Pam Heidell, John Gregoire, Steve Estes-Smargiassi, Dave Coppes
The meeting had four main parts:
Election of committee members
Whit took nominees from floor, but there were none.
Dave Coppes presentation
On to the feature presentation: Dave Coppes, Director of Western Operations, on reservoir operations and river releases. Started by stating that “Our position is to not decouple the river release discussion from the system expansion discussion”
What follows is an outline of the presentation that Dave gave.
Talking about Quabbin and Wachusett only
Schematics of the Q/W system, showing Ware river intake at Shaft 8…
Inflows to Quabbin
Precipitation, tributaries. Also Ware R water from Shaft 8, when needed
Elevation control – high water eliminates shallows to reduce bird habitat, reducing contamination from bird droppings.
Quabbin transfers to Wachusett
Operated to establish interflow.
Other objectives of operations on the Wachusett Reservoir
Releases to the South Nashua
Support capital construction projects. For example, Mass Highway was working on a bridge downstream; so they had to hold flow back. Also when building new gates; PCP abatement work.
Two turbines Cosgrove, Oakdale – actually generates a little more power than is used at Carroll treatment plant.
Seasons for transfers from Quabbin to Wachusett:
June to Oct: Interflow established at 300 mgd during periods of stratification – then it can be kept going at lower rates
Stratification occurs. In late March, snow pack moves into reservoir, suddenly.
Big melt off; water comes up rapidly, causing spilling of water every spring at Wachusett. Now, they typically drop operating band by two feet to make room for flood storage.
Climate change effects?
Ice pack that locks up a lot of water will diminish; more early warm rain events; less lockup and release, more spread out over winter.
Continuing the facilities tour: Cosgrove Intake
Has two hydro turbines; 1.7 MW capacity but don’t get that out of them.
Wachusett Lower Gatehouse and Spillway
Old Wachusett aqueduct was used to move water; it’s also what they used when they were bringing the Carroll WTP online.
New hydropower turbine to be installed at Wachusett lower gatehouse.
$370 K grant from Mass Technology Collaborative
Discussion of Ware transfers
Water comes out shaft 11. Maximum flow 500 mgd. Shows a graph of a three-week period with dramatic changes in elevation – during flood. In Oct 2005, Quabbin elevation rose over two feet.
Ware River diversion is allowed Oct 15 to June 15/ Flow in river mandated to stay at 85 mgd. Capacity 500 mgd transfer before overflows at shaft 2. Occasionally they’ll take water from Ware to help avoid flooding downstream.
Transfers from Ware River still occur. When Quabbin spilling there is no need to transfer. But couple years back, they were transferring a lot. Jonathan Yeo pointed out that it takes a long time for Ware River water to move to the intake, thus providing natural purification; so myth that Ware River water doesn’t get used because of water quality concerns is wrong.
Eileen stated that they used to transfer always, back when demand was higher. Only time failed to meet obligations was when they transferred once through December, overly extending the season of transfers.
If put too much water in the tunnel, then it overflows at Shaft 2, then back it off (that water ends up in Wachusett) – a simple low-tech way to ensure maximal flow from Ware to Quabbin. Intake siphon is also a marvel of engineering.
Chicopee Valley Aqueduct – 49 inch diameter concrete pipe with 20 mgd capacity; average transfer now per day is about 8 mgd; maximum 13 mgd last year.
Shaft 12 – transfers to Wachusett, but all controls are at Oakdale.
Winsor Power station – controls release to Swift from Quabbin. There used to be turbine; but since the fire, now using bypass valve to break head. This is the thing Dave is losing sleep over now. Valve was patched, failing. (Picture of water shooting out of old valve.)
New valve to be installed; capacity 20 mgd; to meet higher flows per Army permit mandating larger releases in the summer, will still have to use old valve.
Connecticut river flow is highly variable due to power companies. Even 24 hr average was leading to too many demands, requiring MWRA to do releases to compensate for low flow. Since 2006, they use three day running average.
Just had the bid to replace that Chapman valve. Hope to have it in place this summer.
Discussion on hydropower on the Connecticut River: do power plants hold water back during hot periods and release it when power prices peak? This year, a few dams up for relicensing – will this affect operations?
Concern that new valve will affect capacity for releases? Dave just wants to get it done. They have to pass 70 mgd at most under the permit; they are building to just that capacity.
Eileen asks, could turbines be rebuilt? Not really clear. Turbine was designed for a 70 mgd release but in the past, they’d just operate part of the day. Now, when they release more than 20, building shakes.
Spillway – 400 feet long.
Steve Estes-Smargiassi’s presentation on declining water use
Watershed yields also vary.
Timing of precipitation affects how much the precipitation affects watershed yield – e.g. if occurs in winter, more gets into reservoir system. Same with spilling. In 2006, spilled 236 days, even though precipitation was average that year.
The chart presented showing reservoir “releases” includes water that MWRA is entitled to divert from Ware, but doesn’t.
In the last couple of releases and spills have exceeded withdrawals.
In balancing the water balance of the system, have to consider that some goes into storage. But over time, in equals out.
Watershed yield is influenced by transpiration.
One of the variables with CC is the length of growing season and amount of transpiration.
Amount sold to communities has decreased; the general trend is dropping.
Sales in 2008: 196 mgd.
Leak detection in Boston was largely responsible - community efficiency. Water rates were very low in the 1980’s so it wasn’t cost effective to do leak detection.
Retail rates up; technology and regulations improved. Installation of efficient appliances.
Population in service area has increased. But some of the heavy water using industry gone – there’s been a change to more information-based jobs rather than manufacturing based jobs.
So Boston used same amount of water last year that they used in 1900!
Seasonal demand – what about lawn watering? Chart shows trend for November to March use as baseline; then seasonal use peaks above this. Indoor/base use dropping about 3 mgd per year. Secondary peaks during cold winters when people run faucets.
Where will the line flatten out? Various betting pools exist at the Authority…
Drop in water use not really reflected in amount treated at Deer Island, since as less waste water enters, more inflow can get in; plus more CSO water going into Deer Island
Seasonal use is 8% of total use; but the seasonal peaks go over 25% higher than baseline.
People who worry about water distribution have different time scales of concern.
If you’re in transmission, distribution, you worry about peak day use.
At the municipal level, worry is there enough water to fight a fire at that moment – highest instantaneous flow.
Capacity tends to be built to accommodate peaks in use. For seasonal use, if you have high peaks, you might have to build a plant to treat water on four days of the year. If you lower the peak, you lower the need to build treatment capacity.
Andrea Donlon: Does lawn watering (automatic sprinklers) increase demand?
Steve: Some communities think they’ve seen these increases. Partial supply communities do have higher peaks.
Footnote on staff summary: reduced demand is great, but, in some periods, running close to bottom capacity of plant – hard to run the plant (Carroll WTP) efficiently.
Martin Pillsbury: is it possible to show a trend in the peaks, by normalizing for the base?
Steve: this is the next chart – hard to see a pattern. Seasonal use variability is high enough that can’t see the pattern. Sawtooth chart that shows rainfall on top and seasonal use on bottom shows decent correlation between them, but pattern of rainfall influences use –
Average over 11 years… 16 mgd of seasonal demand. High was 11% in 2005. Average is 8%
Conclusions about whether it’s safe to add new customers… in light of this info.
Pam Heidell went through list of enquiries they’ve had about new customers. Some are in the process… Wilmington. Southfield (Weymouth NS) – MWRA is first choice for water supply. These two potential customers represent use that would be one-year drop in baseline that is occurring of around 3 mgd per year.
If add up all the other customers who may have raised question about potentially joining the system, it comes to maybe 3.5 to 5.5 mgd more. But Framingham is considering reducing demand.
Jon Beekman: one way of looking at this is that with declines in use, the reservoirs now hold even more years of storage. Steve: yes, as demand goes down, system becomes more reliable.
Briefing by Mary Booth, Executive Director
Brief statement of the origins and purpose of the downstream releases paper presented to WSCAC and MWRA staff for comment.
Previously, a summary of comments from 2006 hearings on system expansion was sent around. This led to a letter to EEA following a meeting with various Smart Growth Alliance folks and others about system expansion. It became clear that while there was various talk about the need for better management of downstream releases, there were few specifics to discuss. The point of the downstream releases paper was therefore to consolidate the information that currently exists about reservoir management and current and desired release regimes. Possible conclusions include calling for reconstitution of the task force that had been discussing the situation on the South Nashua, and the possible inclusion of the Swift River in these discussions, as well. Input from all would be welcome.
Mary also discussed the need for a more regional approach to water resources management and the hope that new tools available to the state (such as the Sustainable Yield Estimator to be released in June) would allow a broader picture to emerge.
Possibly, there will be greater need for MWRA water than even the Authority has thought, over the long run.
Meeting concluded with a statement from Matt Romero on behalf of the MWRA Advisory Board noting that a discussion of system releases should occur only as part of a larger discussion of system expansion.
Next meeting is March 25, 2009 at 10:00 AM in Southborough. There will be no meeting in February.