Contract awarded for Green/Kennebunk water mains in Athol

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-02-2023 4:58 PM

ATHOL – A contract has been awarded to A. Martins & Sons of Ludlow to replace the water mains on Green and Kennebunk streets, located north of the Uptown Common.

In December, the Selectboard voted to use $1.2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act monies to fund the project. In all, approximately 2,500 feet of century-old pipe will be dug up and replaced. Martins & Sons was awarded the contract after it submitted the low bid of just over $942,000. Town Manager Shaun Suhoski told the Selectboard at a recent meeting that engineering and contingency costs would likely push the total cost of the operation close to the $1.2 million set aside for the project.

Athol Public Works Director Dick Kilhart told the Athol Daily News that the project, while limited in scope to a single neighborhood, is important to the entire community. The water mains running along those two streets, he explained, are an integral part of the municipal water system.

Kilhart said the Green Street water main is the main transmission line from the storage tank at the old Hillside filtration plant for traversing water downtown to a tank that then gets re-lifted to the Pleasant Street and Garfield tank areas and again to the North Quabbin Common area.

“We have put a lot, a lot of effort into trying to understand and design and have some thought process on how we can deliver water temporarily through Kennebunk, and also through a temporary water main that will go around the Green Street project to beyond the end of Green Street, because that’s a fairly new water main that goes up through the woods to the tank, so that we can prepare for taking this particular water main out of service and replacing it,” he said.

Kilhart added that all of the water through the Green Street main on a daily basis runs at one point or another and travels through the main in two directions every day. Kilhart said the planning necessary for taking that main offline while it is replaced—while still keeping the water flowing as it needs to—has been stress-inducing for just about everyone involved. He said discussions have included current DPW employees, department retirees with knowledge of the system and project engineers.

“We’ve put a great deal of effort into thinking that this is how we can best approach this,” he said. “Knock on wood, we think we have a pretty good plan in place.”

Kilhart compared the plan to the process of repairing a dam, where water is diverted around it through sluiceways and deposited in the river further downstream. The Green Street project calls for that water main to be “shut off” while the water it normally carries is moved through another main—in this case along Kennebunk Street. Kilhart said a lot of effort has gone into eliminating any disruption of service.

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“Basically, they would do Kennebunk first and that then becomes kind of like a bypass around Green Street,” Kilhart said. “Today, Kennebunk is not connected, but it will be connected to that main. So 50 years from now, if they ever have to do anything up there again or if there’s ever a problem, they could then rotate the movement of the water from the storage facility from Green Street to Kennebunk, or Kennebunk to Green Street.”

Kilhart said that in essence, a permanent bypass in the most critical section of this public drinking water system was being added, allowing for the system to have redundancy moving forward.

The water main along Kennebunk will be enlarged from 6 inches in diameter to 12 inches in order to carry the volume of water needed to fill the storage tank.

Kilhart said that, at this time of year, the average daily water consumption in Athol is approximately 750,000 gallons per day. During the summer months, this can hit a million gallons or more. There are approximately 3,400 municipal water customers, with about 2,700 properties tied into the municipal sewer system.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.

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