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Water company hopes to avoid $1M outlay

  • Grandin Reservoir, located behind and up the mountain from the former Northfield Mount Hermon campus, provides water to the campus and Northfield village. October 19, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Grandin Reservoir in east Northfield. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/4/2019 11:33:48 PM

NORTHFIELD — “Extreme” rate increases could come to customers of the East Northfield Water Co. to pay for a state-required upgrade estimated to cost about $1 million, company President John Alden told the state Department of Environmental Protection this week.

The upgrade would be a filtration system the company is required to install at its water source, Grandin Reservoir, after eight of 52 bi-weekly water tests between April and September 2018 showed above-acceptable levels of bacteria in the reservoir. The DEP requires that bacteria be below the acceptable level in 90 percent of tests, which would be 47 out of 52.

Alden explained the water company’s situation in a hearing with the DEP on Thursday, held at the water company’s request.

While the hearing was not a formal appeal of the DEP’s decision, the information Alden presented may influence the DEP to reconsider. The water company has until Jan. 17 to add any extra information. There is no deadline for a decision from the DEP, but a representative from the department’s Springfield office said it would be timely.

Alden emphasized to the DEP that the water was never unsafe to drink, due to purification processes the water is run through after it is drawn from the reservoir and before it goes to customers. A filtration system would have little to no additional effect on the bacteria levels in the water, he said.

Alden has said before that the unusually hot and wet weather this summer likely caused the higher-than-normal bacteria levels in the reservoir. He provided the DEP with weather data from the eight days when the problematic tests were taken.

“It strongly suggests that the weather caused our problems,” Alden said. “But, we’re going to have weather. If we have another summer like that, we’re going to have the same problems. It’s something that we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with.”

The East Northfield Water Company is owned by Northfield Mount Hermon School, which is now based in Gill. The company has about 300 customers, mostly around central Northfield and the Thomas Aquinas College campus, which was previously Northfield Mount Hermon. Students are expected to move into the college this fall.

Alden said the company is exploring options for funding the required upgrade through a loan, so as to spread the cost to its customers over an extended period. An estimate for the rate increase was therefore not possible yet.

Alternatively, the company may abandon Grandin Reservoir and use a new water source, although Alden said drilling a well would likely cost even more.

Contact Max Marcus at or 413-772-0261 ex 261.

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