WEST BARNSTABLE — Residents who recently met at the community center worry a Barnstable plan to connect the Hyannis Water System to a drinking water test well in the Bridge Creek Conservation Area may jeopardize water supplies in their village.
“We would appreciate learning the precise reasons for making this change,” West Barnstable’s Priscilla Jones said at the April 13 meeting, noting the proposed project would require three times the amount of pipe as a previously identified parcel off Jail Lane in Barnstable Village. “The community needs full information on why this choice is being made and if it makes sense.”
Barnstable Town Councilor Kris Clark, who also serves as clerk of the West Barnstable Water Commission, compiled residents’ questions before the April 13 meeting so town staff could prepare answers.
Clark confirmed with the State Ethics Commission that her dual role created no conflict of interest because West Barnstable water commissioners are volunteers.
Although water conservation measures are in place in Hyannis, there are no water shortages anticipated for Hyannis this summer, said Nathan Collins, Barnstable’s assistant town engineer.
“The whole exploratory process is in its infancy,” he said. “We’re just looking to establish additional test wells. MassDOT requires certain redundancy capabilities in case one or another site goes down. We are in deficit now.”
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Barnstable is at a 1.8-million-gallon-per-day deficit in terms of meeting that redundancy requirement and has a projected deficit of 2.2 million gallons per day to 2040, Collins said.
Rob Steen, assistant director of the Department of Public Works, said the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, “looks at each individual system.”
“It’s not that the (Hyannis) system doesn’t have water; it does. It just can’t do it if there’s some catastrophe that takes out the entire well system,” Steen said.
As a result, in 2019, the town hired a consultant to install test wells to locate potential public water sources within the Cape’s sole-source aquifer.
The testing drill
Eleven potential sites were initially identified as conducive for test water wells for new drinking water sources. Nine were explored, six were good, and three were deemed feasible for further exploration.
Sites were then evaluated and ranked based on pump yield and water quality test results, according to a Source Alternatives Evaluation Report on the “Water Supply” section of the Barnstable DPW website.
West Barnstable’s Bridge Street Conservation Area was selected as the most advantageous site due to a potential yield almost 10 times greater than other sites – about 5,000 gallons per minute compared with 500 gallons per minute at alternative test sites near Hathaway’s Pond, West Barnstable Conservation Area and north of Route 6.
A water treatment plant won’t be placed on the property next year because the selection process requires time and testing before DEP approval, Collin said.
“It’s likely that there’s going to be two additional sources needed,” he said, “but this particular site is not necessarily going to be the site. Our goal is to be transparent…and walk you through the process of how we chose this site.”
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The Land Court approved an easement agreement between the town and the West Barnstable Fire District Water Commission. Residents at a special district meeting voted to pay $350,000 for the identified rights to a test well parcel behind the West Barnstable Fire Station.
Village bylaws mandate the village water commissioners have to maintain and repair district water infrastructure, Clark said. It’s prudent for the town of Barnstable to look for new water sites for 50 to 100 years out, “but as development comes, eligible open spaces decrease. They need a 400-foot, undeveloped radius.”
Some residents attending the April 13 meeting said they are “averse to West Barnstable becoming the water bucket for the city.'”
Hans Keijser, supervisor of the Hyannis Water System, said, “Right now, we’re looking for 1,500 gallons per minute.”
The town of Barnstable bought the Hyannis Water System in 2005.
Mark Wirtanen, chairman of the West Barnstable Water Commission, kept the meeting to one hour, saying more question-and-answer sessions will be held at the West Barnstable Community Center on the first Monday of each month from June 6 through Dec. 5.