City addresses Ă˘marginally elevatedĂ˘ lead levels in drinking water
Marlborough – Responding to a recent report indicating “marginally elevated” lead levels in the city’s drinking water, on Sept. 21, the Finance Committee approved a budget transfer that would replace lead service lines along Bolton Street from Lincoln Street to Union Street.
Department of Public Works Commissioner Ronald LaFreniere recommended that the city look to replace the lead services at the same time as other city street projects.
“We should in all instances make it a part of the project to replace all lead services,” LaFreniere said.
With plans set to begin the replacement of the water main on Bolton Street, originally part of the 2007 capital bond project, councilors approved the transfer of an additional $496,000 from the stabilization fund, bringing the total project cost to $731,000.
Concerned about the funding source of additional costs, Finance Committee Chair Michael Ossing and Councilor at-Large Patricia Pope recommended that the city look at bonding the money for the project.
“We worked hard to build up that [stabilization] account,” Pope said. “I just don’t have the confidence that the money will make it back.”
According to Comptroller Tom Abel, the bonding process would take six weeks, which would push the project off to spring.
“We have not shied away from paying cash to avoid interest in the past,” Ward 2 City Councilor Paul Ferro said. “We need to reclaim it and get it back into the stabilization account.”
Also supporting the borrowing from the stabilization account, Councilor at-Large Stephen Levy explained it as a zero percent loan that would flow back into the account.
“You have to trust the process,” he said.
LaFreniere explained that with the building season coming to an end his department would need to move forward immediately to get the project completed before the first freeze.
“I personally feel like we are rushing,” Ward 1 City Councilor Joseph Delano said.
Ward 6 City Councilor Edward Clancy questioned LaFreniere on the ability of the contractor to compete the project within the time constraints.
“If I get to the point that I am not confident that it can get done, I will not advance the project,” LaFreniere said.
“If we can get it done this year, do it,” Clancy said.
Agreeing with Clancy’s recommendation to move forward, Ward 7 City Councilor Donald Landers deferred to LaFreniere’s expertise in approving design plans, contractors and timetables. The assurance of the commissioner, he said, was all the assurance he needed.
Commenting on the letter sent out to residents about the lead levels, LaFreniere explained that the levels were not high enough to dictate state-mandated upgrades. In most cases, he said, running the water for a minute in the morning would rectify the increase in lead levels.
Reassuring homeowners that they would not be mandated to make costly upgrades, LaFreniere said that the city would replace pipes along the right of way. However, if homeowners did want to change all of the pipes into their houses, they are responsible for the cost of the pipe from the edge of the sidewalk to the home.
The transfer will come to the floor for a final vote at the next City Council meeting. In the meantime, at the request of Delano, LaFreniere has agreed to provide the councilors with more details on the cost and scope of the project.
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