PLAINVILLE — Representatives of Valley Water Systems have unveiled a plan to install water softening equipment at one of its two wellfields to reduce the presence of minerals that residents have blamed for damaged appliances.
"While it has been safe and reliable over the years, the fact of the matter is that it is had some aesthetic issues which I think have been well chronicled. And these aesthetic issues come from any number of things, but they manifest themselves through scaling, spotting and pretty much an inconvenience to many people," Donald Vaughan, the water company’s president, told the Town Council during its Aug. 19 meeting.
The installation of treatment equipment would cost over $2 million to construct and $63,000 a year to operate, according to an engineering study. Vaughan estimated that the construction will lead to a rate increase of around 18 percent for customers. The company has not increased rates since 2010.
Water softening refers to the process of reducing the concentration of minerals, particularly calcium carbonate, in the tap water being delivered to customers. The state considers levels exceeding 150 milligrams of calcium carbonate per liter to be hard. The state Department of Public Health says such levels do not have health implications, but can damage appliances. Testing of the town’s water in 2017 found levels between 190 and 322 milligrams per liter.
Town Manager Robert Lee said the possible rate increase, which would require the approval of the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, would be offset by less wear-and-tear on faucets, hot water heaters and washing machines.
The project being considered would focus on addressing the most extreme levels of water hardness, found mostly in the south-eastern section of town. The area is primarily serviced by a wellfield off Woodford Avenue. The plan Vaughan outlined would install an ion exchange system for the two wells operating there, which supply just over a quarter of the town’s water.
Neighborhoods with hardness levels approaching 300 milligrams per liter would be brought to around 150 milligrams. Homes and businesses in the northern and eastern parts of the town, which are supplied by a larger wellfield near Johnson Avenue, would be minimally affected by the treatment.
A 2018 customer survey found that only 44 percent of customers would be willing to pay for a rate increase for improved quality, Vaughan said.