Moratorium on new Southwick water connections amended

DPW Director Randy Brown created a chart that shows the average water flow each month compared to the safe capacity that he calculated. The green line representing 2020 rises above the light indigo line indicating his calculated capacity during the summer months. The light red line indicates the capacity that could be reached with pump station improvements. (PETER CURRIER SCREENSHOT)

SOUTHWICK- The Board of Water Commissioners voted unanimously to partially end the moratorium on new water service connections during its remote meeting May 6. 

The board voted to lift the moratorium for new connections with expected flows of less than 150,000 gallons per year. Department of Public Works Director Randy Brown said that 150,000 gallons would be approximately the high end of water flow for a single family home. 

The moratorium was put in place on Aug. 28, 2020 after Southwick’s overall water usage spiked above what he calculated to be the safe capacity for the town. The town’s water usage reached the May capacity of about 26 million gallons before spiking above the capacity set for June and July. 

The spike in water usage was approximately 20 percent above 2019 levels. The Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) gives Town Water Withdrawal Permits that have maximum daily and yearly water flow limits. 

Brown said that each month’s capacity is based on the average water use that month, with more water flow being allowed during the warmer months. He said that making improvements to Southwick’s pump stations would increase the allotted capacity for the town and make it less likely that the capacity is reached. 

Article 9 on the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting would appropriate $575,000 for water line replacement. Some commissioners wanted to wait for the town meeting vote before they voted to end the moratorium. They all settled on a partial end to the moratorium for smaller projects such as single family homes. 

Brown said that there were some projects in Southwick that could not move forward without the lifting of the moratorium. 

“There are a couple of large projects and a couple of smaller projects,” said Brown. “The smaller ones I am not so much concerned about. It is the large ones I worry about.”

Brown indicated that larger projects would be able to move forward with their higher flow water connections if the improvements are made to the town’s water pumping stations.

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