Whately water commissioners enact outdoor water use restrictions

Staff Writer
Published: 6/26/2020 6:11:17 PM

WHATELY — The complete outdoor water ban enacted earlier this month may be no more, but turning on your sprinklers every day is still out of the question.

Outdoor water use is limited to even numbered houses on even days of the month, and odd numbered houses on odd days. Further, outdoor water use is only permitted between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.

The restriction, which comes in response to demand exceeding the current pumping capacity of the system, went into effect on Thursday.

“If people start abusing that, then they’ll just have to go back to no outdoor water use again,” Water Superintendent Wayne Hutkoski said.

The restriction, which does not apply to private wells, irrigation from the Connecticut River or the Whately Water District, follows a ban that went into effect June 17 after a day of out-of-the-ordinary water use, Hutkoski said.

On June 17, the town used 380,000 gallons of water — nearly double what it would normally use in a day, he said.

“It took the tank level down to just under half. … If it continued that way, it was really only about a day and half of water left inside the tank for the town,” Hutkoski told the Selectboard on Wednesday evening.

A portion of the town — the south end of River Road, Long Plain Road from the Christian Lane intersection, and Egypt Road, Straits Road, Grey Oak Lane and Eastwood Avenue — was temporarily running off Hatfield’s water system as a result, he said, which gave the town time to replenish its tank while continuing to supply most of the town. He said it also allowed time for word of the ban to get out.

Hutkoski said the tanks are gaining water during the day, but because of demand exceeding the current system’s pumping capacity, the Board of Water Commissioners voted Wednesday to change the ban to a mandatory restriction.

“The water is there,” he said. “Our pumping capacity is down because of the (manganese) filters.”

The manganese filters were installed after it was discovered several years ago that manganese levels in the water were above the state limit.

But the filters’ restrictions only allow the town to pump about 140 gallons per minute, down from almost 190 gallons per minute before they were installed, according to Hutkoski. He noted the state permits up to 250 gallons per minute.

Hutkoski explained that the Water Department is in talks with an engineer about increasing the pumping capacity by installing a booster pump system, possibly by the end of July.

Selectboard member Jonathan Edwards asked Hutkoski if the filter restrictions were something the town was aware of before they were installed.

Hutkoski said, no; in fact, the water commissioners had asked the engineering company prior to installing them if this issue would come up, and were told it wouldn’t.

“The system we have, we’re the first commercial users of it,” he said.

Water Commissioner George Bucala Jr. said despite the pumping capacity limit, “the filters work outstanding.” According to Hutkoski, the manganese levels in the water are “next to nothing.”

“We need to bring this to the attention of the engineering company that told us there wouldn’t be a pumping restriction issue, and see if they have a solution … because what we have right now is not what we were promised to have,” Edwards said.

Hutkoski and Bucala said the pumping capacity issue is one they’ve been looking into for several months, in part because of the way the town is growing. The Water Department has considered places in town for another well to increase how much water can be pumped out to residents.

The current outdoor water use restrictions are expected to last through Sept. 1, unless an earlier vote by the Board of Water Commissioners decides otherwise.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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