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Franconia water project moves ahead

Stantec Engineer Renee LaBranche, right, explains the needed upgrades to Franconia residents at last Wednesday's Franconia Water Project meeting. Duncan McKee. (click for larger version)
July 29, 2009
FRANCONIA—The proposed $4.25 million Franconia Water System Improvement Project is moving ahead as planned, following a public meeting last week in which residents were brought up-to-date on the project's progress.

On Wednesday evening, about two-dozen residents met at the town hall with members of the Franconia Select Board, Water Commissioners, the Franconia Water Project Committee, and Renee LaBranche, the head project engineer from Stantec.

The groups made themselves available to residents to explain the proposed improvements to the water system, possible funding sources, funding formula and bonding process.

The proposed improvements are seen as necessary due to a survey of the Franconia water system done by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) in 2005. In a letter of March 2006, DES, documented several deficiencies and issues with the system, including inadequate water mains, low water pressure, water storage deficiencies, corrosive water, and lost water.

The inadequacies of the water mains centers on the fact that it is comprised of two-inch galvanized pipe that is between 60 and 80-years-old. In many cases, where the pipe was examined, it was found to have build-ups of lead and copper deposits obstructing water flow and causing corrosion. This leads to a drop in pressure and a significant loss of water.

Additionally, a two-inch pipe is not an adequately sized main to support the present usage.

Water storage is at issue because of the aging roof structure over the storage facility, leaks in both the storage tanks and the roof, meaning both loss of water and possible contamination. As well, the storage capacity cannot handle the volume required for the present demand.

Among the prioritized improvements in the project is to increase the storage volume to 350,000 gallons, and raise the storage tank water elevation, which will result in a significant pressure increase.

DES outlined a list of recommendations to mitigate the shortcomings and problems. It was understood that the possible consequences of not acting on the NHDES recommendations would be eventual fines for non-compliance and the possibility of a ban on the addition of new hook-ups. These findings did not come as a complete surprise to those involved, as the system was mostly constructed in the 1930's and 1940's and has never had significant capital improvements made.

At Wednesday's meeting, Water Project Commissioner and Chair of the Capital Improvement Committee Jim Hamblin stated, "Hindsight says that we should have done this upgrade, 30 or 40 years ago."

The same shortcomings and needed improvements were identified and recommended in studies done in 1949, 1988 and 2002 by DES and in corresponding engineering studies done by Provan & Lorber in 1988 and 2003.

At the meeting, LaBranche again outlined the projects issues and goals as well as answering residents' questions and concerns.

He explained that one of the issues to be dealt with is the fact that under Main Street, the water main lies buried four-feet beneath concrete-encased power lines. Ideally there should be at least five feet separating them.

According to Hamblin, the thrust of the meeting and future meetings is to keep the public informed about the status of the project and to keep the information flowing.

"Our intent is to communicate with the public as much as we can," he said.

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