October 8 2019

Work Continues to Connect Burlington Water System to MWRA

By: Rich Hosford

The process to have Burlington join the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) is a lengthy and ongoing matter. 


Department of Public Works (DPW) John Sanchez gave an update on the progress his department has been made to get the town connected to the water supply during Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting. 


In May of 2018, Town Meeting voted to allow the town to pay the $4.6 million fee to join the MWRA and an additional $700,000 to install a water line on Adams Street to connect the Burlington and Lexington water systems. This initial connection, deemed “Phase 1” will give the town short-term redundancy in the system as it installs an automated sludge removal system at Mill Pond Reservoir and a back-up for any emergencies. 


Sanchez said that since that time the town has made progress towards joining the MWRA though there is still work to do. First, he said, the town received legislative approval from the state to join and that Gov. Charlie Baker signed the bill allowing the connection. 


What is taking longer is the permitting process, Sanchez said. He said they are a couple of weeks away from the draft of the environmental impact review and they are planning on submitting it in about a month. 


“Our goal is to have a very complete draft,” he explained. “Typically, if you have a draft and it’s not very complete you often have to go through a second draft and that takes more time.” 


He said he hopes the permits will be completed and the town will be given the green light in the summer of 2020. At that point the town will have to install the pipe to connect through Lexington which he says they are planning to do before the end of the construction season next year. 


That will allow the town to get water from the MWRA through Lexington without declaring a state of emergency, which comes with a mandatory watering ban. 

Long term, town leaders are seeking another vote to build an exclusive connection to the MWRA system that the town can use to supplement its water supply. The second phase, scheduled to be introduced in FY22, will be to create a larger, exclusive, connection with the MWRA and decommission the Vine Brook Treatment Plant entirely. The town would maintain the Mill Pond Reservoir as its primary source of water and use the MRWA water as needed to meet demand.


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