Whitcomb Ave Treatment Plant

IMPROVING WATER QUALITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The plan to build a water treatment plant on Whitcomb Avenue will improve the quality of water in Littleton and benefit the environment by returning land in the wetlands buffer zone to a natural state.

THE PLAN CONSISTS OF THREE MAJOR PARTS:

  • Replace the existing drinking water wells on Whitcomb Avenue with new wells in the same location. These wells provide 45% of the public drinking water in Littleton and are the only town wells without a treatment plant.
  • Construct a water treatment plant across Whitcomb Avenue from the wells. The site is the vacant lot adjacent to the VFW property. This location is outside the Zone 1 aquifer protection area and uphill from the wells, keeping it outside the 100-year flood plain.
  • Remove the old highway department garage and the pavement on property adjacent to the well site and restore the wetlands area to a natural habitat that supports wildlife.
Whitcomb Ave Well Site Building

THE PLAN MEETS MANY GOALS OF THE LITTLETON WATER DEPARTMENT, INCLUDING:

  • Improving the source of water by constructing new wells.
  • Treating the water to remove naturally occurring, nuisance minerals, including manganese which is the cause of staining of laundry and fixtures, a common complaint from LWD users in the area. The plan will also remove iron and arsenic. (Please note: the water is safe to drink and meets all water quality standards. With treatment, the quality will improve.)
  • LWD is a steward of the environment and works to conserve land in order to protect drinking water sources. LWD holds 45 acres of undeveloped land for water source protection.  The removal of the old highway garage and impervious surfaces will help to improve water infiltration into the aquifer, improve natural filtration, and reduce run-off.
Treatment will remove naturally occurring contaminants of iron, manganese, and arsenic.

LOCATION:

When initially conceived, the idea was to place the treatment plant at the well site. However, early in the design process, it became clear that early concept presented complications. The biggest problem was the well site falls in the 100-year flood plain, which would add $1 million to the project cost, according to engineering estimates.

Engineers recommended siting the water treatment plant on 2.75 acres located across the street and owned by LWD for the purpose of the water system.

LWD acquired the site in 1989 through a state Aquifer Land Acquisition Program, managed by the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection. Prior to making the decision to site the plant across the street, LWD consulted with the MassDEP, which has concurred the site is preferable for the water treatment plant.

3D rendering of the new treatment plant
3D rendering of the new treatment plant

THE FOLLOWING SUPPORT THE PROJECT:

  • The Littleton Board of Water Commissioners
  • The Littleton Conservation Commission
  • The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

THE COST OF THE PROJECT

  • The project will be paid for by the LWD ratepayers through the water bills.
  • In 2018, Town Meeting voters authorized LWD to borrow $7 million for the project. To date, $250,000 has been spent on design and engineering.
  • Building the treatment plant at the well site would add an estimated $1 million to the project cost.

THE PROCESS OF THE PROJECT

Like any building project, public or private, in Littleton, the LWD has gone through the process of seeking approval of town boards, including the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission.  LWD has held two meetings with abutters and has adjusted the plan where feasible to account for feedback.

The plan adjustments include:

  • The layout of the building on the property was adjusted.
  • Additional landscaping and greenery will obscure the view of the building.

RESOURCES

LCTV Interview on Water Departments Whitcomb Ave Project

Board of Selectmen and Conservation Commission Support Whitcomb Ave Project [Press Release] 

Q&A

Q: Why build the treatment plant on an undeveloped lot?

A: The property is a 2.75 acre field owned by Littleton Water for the purposes of providing clean and safe drinking water, and this plan uses it for that purpose.  The lot is uphill and across the street from the well site.   This removes the plant from the 100-year flood plain, wetland resource areas, and the Zone 1 aquifer protection area (the 400 foot radius around drinking water wells).

Q: Did Town Meeting vote to site the treatment plant at the well site?

A: Town Meeting voted in May 2018 to authorize the LWD to borrow $7 million for the project.  While the proposed location at the time was at the well site, engineering later showed a better, less-expensive location was LWD property across the street.  The recommendation by the engineers and LWD staff was presented to the Board of Water Commissioners at public meeting, and the project has gone through the Planning Board and Conservation Commission permitting processes.

Q: What will be the impact of the citizens’ petition at Town Meeting on May 6 to place the treatment plant site under Article 97 conservation restriction?

A: Placement of a conservation restriction on the LWD land would remove from the Board of Water Commissioners the ability to use the land for the purposes of a water treatment plant.  It would force the Commissioners to consider more expensive and less environmentally beneficial alternatives.