For thirty years, Eastham officials gathered evidence of progressively declining groundwater quality in the community’s six thousand private wells. Nitrates, industrial solvents, and emerging contaminants emanating from septic systems and the Town’s closed landfill posed immediate and long-term threats to public health.
Adding complexity to the situation, most residential areas within Eastham are densely developed with very small lots, and contain both private wells and on-site septic systems supplying all water and wastewater management to the Town’s residents. These conditions limited the Town’s economic development, as the area could not accommodate increased density for new properties, such as rental communities and commercial businesses. To combat these harmful contaminants, the Town of Eastham authorized the construction of a municipal water system at their 2014 and 2015 Annual Town Meetings, and retained Environmental Partners to provide engineering services related to development, permitting, design, and construction of the new Town-wide municipal water supply.
Initial phases of the project focused on permitting and planning to evaluate three potential water supply sites. Environmental Partners completed file reviews, field investigations, and groundwater modeling for the water supply wells. The design of the water system’s well pump stations, elevated water storage tanks, and water distribution system began following successful local, state, and federal approval of the water supply planning effort.
EP, working with Town officials, devised a strategy to design and construct the first phase of the project – 45 miles of water main, two well pumping stations, and the first storage tank – in less than three years. Only 30 months later, water service was flowing to high priority areas near the landfill. The remaining 75 miles of water mains, final well station, and water storage tank are expected to be constructed by 2023.
With no experience in public water supply, Eastham had to move expeditiously to adopt comprehensive policies on system management, rate setting, rules and regulations, and construction sequencing. A careful implementation strategy coupled with an extensive public outreach component was executed in order to ensure success of this accelerated design, permitting, and construction program. Throughout the project, Environmental Partners and Eastham officials engaged in a continuous, multi-media campaign of public education and outreach. To increase public awareness and involvement with this project, an aggressive public notification system was adopted, including a project website and a dedicated phone line and email address to allow for public feedback.
Construction of Phase 1 of the distribution system was organized into eight discrete areas for design and construction so that the storage tank, well fields, and distribution system could be built simultaneously. Coordinating activities so the well fields and storage tank could be brought online on a schedule that allowed for water main pressure testing to be performed, and subsequent service connections to be made immediately thereafter, was a critical aspect of this fast-tracked effort.
One particular challenge EP overcame was how to efficiently construct six miles of water main within State Highway (Route 6), which was the largest linear utility project in the history of MassDOT District 5. An innovative traffic management plan, allowing construction within the travel lanes in off peak periods accelerated the construction process to as many as 700 linear feet per day of pipe installation. This significantly reduced both cost and time for the Town, and won the praise of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
Phase 2 of the program is currently underway and is anticipated to be completed by 2023. Construction consists of five phases, A through E, to expand water service and fire protection to secondary roadways and neighborhoods Town-wide. Phase 2A is under construction and includes three separate contracts to complete over 20 miles of water mains and associated water services and fire hydrants. Phase 2B, which includes additional water main construction, a water supply wellfield and control building, and a water storage tank, is currently scheduled to be online in 2020.
What the Town of Eastham and Environmental Partners have accomplished together is truly unique. No other community in the region has built an entire public water supply system of this scale and complexity in such a short timeframe. EP’s innovative permitting strategy of engaging multiple agencies simultaneously shaved over a year off the typical permitting schedule, allowing construction activities to commence much earlier than the average project.
The completed phases of this project won numerous awards in 2017 including being selected as a Top 25 Public Works Project by the American Public Works Association. Environmental Partners also accepted the “Most Innovative Program” award from New England Water Works Association (NEWWA) for their planning, design, and construction of the new system, and The Town of Eastham was named Utility of The Year by NEWWA.