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May 14. 2013 10:35PM

Merrimack River to be tapped as Manchester Water Works expands supply

MANCHESTER — Manchester Water Works is buying property in Hooksett to tap the Merrimack River as part of a $16 million project beginning around 2017.

Manchester Water Works will need to borrow about $10 million for the project, raising the bill for the average customer by about $16.50 a year, according to Water Works Director David Paris.

"This is part of a long-term plan to develop additional water supply for the city," Paris said Tuesday.

All of Manchester and parts of six area towns derive water for drinking and other uses from Lake Massabesic.

Aldermen last week approved purchasing a 7.5-acre parcel for $435,000, or $55,000 above an appraisal the city received. The parcel, which features more than 1,000 feet of river frontage, is located north of Interstate 93's Exit 10, accessed off Kimball Drive with frontage on Quality Drive.

Water Works, which hopes to own the property within a month, delivers about 18 million gallons of treated lake water each day to about 160,000 people in all of Manchester and parts of Auburn, Bedford, Derry, Goffstown, Hooksett and Londonderry.

Projections show that consumer demand for water will hit 20 million gallons a day around 2016. That amount is what safely could be pulled from the lake in a 12-month span without lowering the water level in a drought year, Paris said. Rain falling within a watershed measuring about 40 square miles feeds the lake.

The Hooksett project won't affect swimming or boating along the river. Boating is banned on part of Lake Massabesic, while swimming is prohibited throughout.

The project calls for a single well to be built along the river shore connected to six pipes drilled into the sand under the river bed, about 60 to 70 feet below the water line, Paris said.

Screening will be attached to part of the pipes, allowing water to flow into them. Gravity will steer the water into a six-foot diameter concrete manhole. A pump inside will send the water to a nearby treatment plant yet to be built, purifying the water before it flows into people's homes, he said.

The Hooksett well will be able to produce about 5 millions gallons a day and can be expanded, he said.

Part of the money will come from a $7 million fund that collects a one-time charge of $914 for every new house connected to the water system, Paris said.

Water Works already has spent nearly $500,000 in consulting fees and will pay around $75,000 to build two smaller connector roads to replace other small roadways that will be eliminated. The well and piping will cost an estimated $1.9 million, with an estimated $13 million price tag for the water treatment building.

Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne, who chairs the aldermanic lands and buildings committee, said he backed the move. But he was skeptical about the water quality.

"When you mention the Merrimack River, it doesn't sound like the cleanest water to tap," he said.

But Paris said there was no need to worry.

The sand helps filter the water, so the quality of the water would be superior to the water found near the water line. And it also will be sent through the treatment facility for further purification, he said.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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