, Gloucester, MA

April 19, 2013

City's $10 million water project in full swing

By Richard Gaines
Staff Writer

---- — All across the city, but primarily along the north-south axis — Washington Street and Centennial Avenue — that runs from Lanesville to Stacy Boulevard, work has resumed on an estimated $10 million in water system improvement projects.

”Spring has sprung,” Public Works Director Mike Hale said Thursday, “so we’re back working at all these projects.

”It’s infrastructure across the board,” he added. “The amount of water work is incredible.”

In Lanesville, the featured work is the replacement of the 20-year old Plum Cove water storage tank, which, because it was too large, kept water for too long, requiring more chemical treatment to maintain purity, hale said.

At the southern end of the city’s backbone along Centennial Avenue, more than 20,000 feet of new water line, mains and valves are being installed in the side streets to the east. The $6 million project — with work this week on Granite and Blynman Streets — is “by far the largest water project in my history (as public works director)” with a cost greater by a half than the heralded replacement of the entire water system in Magnolia a decade ago, Hale said. The Magnolia water modernization cost less than $5 million.

The work along Centennial, which extends work done along Stacy Boulevard and Western Avenue, is also exceptionally “complicated” on the streets of the hill due to “cross streets and sewer pipes at four way intersections,” said Hale.

Before the replacement pipes were installed along the Boulevard, the first heavy frost of each winter would be denoted by a break in the century old cast iron pipes. Some considered the water main breaks of December and January to be the true signal of seasonal change.

Pipe replacement work is also underway in Magnolia and at the West Gloucester water treatment plant, which has undergone extensive modernization work is underway to replace the sedimentation collection system.

When finished, the new sand filters save the city “tens of millions of gallons of water annually,” Hale said. They exist to remove minerals that are found naturally in the city’s water, but until now the inefficiency of the filters was such that the water was shunted into the waste water system, but in the future the water from the filters will be clean enough for re-introduction into the drinking water system, he noted.

Newly completed, meanwhile, is a remote control vault along the Washington Street straightaway opposite Lobster Cove, Annusquam for the system north of that point. The long period of single-lane traffic last winter owed to the work which left a non-nondescript steel box in a cut in the steep incline east of Washington Street.

“It ties into (the) Klondike (reservoir) and the Plum Cove water storage tank,” said Hale, “which, when the replacement is completed, will feature a modern ball and pedestal structure in place of the old fashioned tank.

The new tank will have a lesser capacity, he noted.

“When the Plum Cove tower is full, it signals to the control valve on Washington Street,” said Hale, who added the signal will shut off all water from south of that point to draw down the water in the tower so that it can be replaced.

That will end the need to ensure that drinking water remains in circulation and does not stand still anywhere in the system for too long, Hale said. That problem was at the core of the “boil water” crisis that descended on the city in the summer of 2009.

The replacement of the Plum Cove storage tank is about half completed, he said.

“The pedestal has been involved and now they’re putting the ball (the tank) on,” Hale said.

Once the work on the hill adjacent to Centennial Avenue is completed, 23,000 feet of new piping will be in the ground, and Hale said the only major element in the project will be to replace the main under the Blynman canal,” which also is the most complicated engineering piece.

He said the plan is to complete finish off the project with the under-the-canal pipe replacement this summer, though he added that the project still entails obtaining some property easements.

“There’s some legal stuff we’re working out,” Hale said.

Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-3464, or at