Massachusetts Water Resources Authority


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May 5, 2000


Massachusetts officials welcomed today's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns that MWRA should proceed with its program for installing ozonation facilities at its new Walnut Hill Water Treatment Plant. The decision supports MWRA's belief that replacement of rusty pipelines in local water systems provides a greater benefit to the public health in a more cost-effective manner than addition of filtration to the new facilities.

The litigation ruled upon by Judge Stearns began in 1998 when United States Department of Justice lawyers representing the United States Environmental Protection Agency sued MWRA to require addition of water filtration facilities to the new plant scheduled for construction at Walnut Hill in Marlborough. The plant will modernize water disinfection and other treatment processes for water supplied from the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoir systems to about two million customers in 40 communities served by the MWRA.

MWRA presented its case on the grounds that detailed studies of the quality of water delivered from its reservoirs failed to show that filtration processes are needed to meet federal and state drinking water standards that protect public health. MWRA also made a strong case that protection of the watersheds surrounding the high quality source water reservoirs is the cornerstone of its overall water supply improvement program.

"I am pleased that Judge Stearns has agreed that the comprehensive approach taken by MWRA, with the emphasis of protecting our water at its source, is a forward looking strategy to ensure the long-term protection of our drinking water," said Bob Durand, Secretary of Environmental Affairs and Chairman of the MWRA Board of Directors. "The Judge's decision supports the course of action that was approved by the MWRA Board of Directors after months of study and technical review. The MWRA is in the process of undertaking a comprehensive set of improvements that are ensuring that we reliably supply safe, clean water to over 2 million Massachusetts residents and this decision allows this program to continue as planned."

Over $180 million would be saved by not building the filtration facilities at this time, making financial resources available to help MWRA communities rehabilitate neglected rusty pipelines that threaten to discolor water or encourage bacterial growth while drinking water travels to local neighborhoods and homes.

MWRA Executive Director Douglas B. MacDonald said: "We have worked hard to design a program that delivers top quality drinking water but which spends only the money that must be spent, and every penny of that in the ways that will do the most good. Ratepayers know that rates are going up because we are building important new facilities for the drinking water system. The data we presented to Judge Stearns documented the reasons for our confidence that our drinking water meets federal standards and will continue to improve in the future."

MWRA's water system, one of the greatest natural and human-made assets of our region, is now receiving attention to maintenance, rehabilitation and improvement that is decades overdue. Construction of the new $260 million treatment plant at Walnut Hill in 1999. The plant is already about 10% complete, based on the construction cost for the project. Other on-going work on the MWRA water system includes the $700 million MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel from Marlborough to Weston backing up the aging Hultman Aqueduct's single-pipe water transmission to the metropolitan Boston area. MWRA has also completed or is constructing new facilities for water storage in the metropolitan area at Middlesex Fells and at two locations in Weston, allowing obsolete open storage reservoirs like Spot Pond to be removed from the active water supply system. The most important work will be completed in 2004 when the new water tunnel, the new treatment plant, and the largest of the new covered storage facilities will all enter service in accordance with a schedule agreed upon between MWRA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.