State grant aids city levee improvement

WESTFIELD – The City Council recently approved a $74,020 grant to upgrade a flood control pumping station off Meadow Street currently being renovated as part of the multimillion-dollar levee improvement project.
The council voted to accept the grant, obtained through the city’s Engineering Department, to be used for installation of a remote monitoring and control system at the Williams Riding Way flood control pump station.
The Westfield River levee improvement project, which was substantially completed last year, was required by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to bring the city’s levee system into compliance with standards issued through the federal Corps of Army Engineers in order for the city to qualify for FEMA certification.
FEMA establishes flood zone maps under which residents and businesses can apply for low-cost federal flood insurance if their property is in a flood zone and is protected by FEMA-certified flood control structures.
City Engineer Mark Cressotti said that FEMA, through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, instituted the Flood Mitigation Grant Program to assist communities in the wake of the September flooding following Tropical Storm Irene.
The city funded the levee improvement work and contracted with Tighe & Bond for engineering services for that project. The pump station renovation work is the final phase of that effort.
“We’ve been paying for this (levee improvement work) with city money, but the opportunity arose to apply for state and federal funds and save the city some money,” Cressotti said Friday.
“We have it under contract with Tighe & Bond for the redesign and upgrade of the pump station as part of the levee improvements needed for FEMA certification,” he said. “The pump station has obvious deficiencies.”
Cressotti said that the pump station retrofit “is something beyond the basic requirements of FEMA so we, as a city, have greater confidence that the pump station will perform as required in a flood situation.”
The focus of the pump station improvements is to replace two “monster” gas-driven pumps, one electric powered pump and install a permanent emergency generator.
“The FEMA/MEMA grant to improve the city’s flood-control facilities will be used to install a remote sensing system and to remotely operate the plant,” Cressotti said. “That equipment, similar to what the Water Resource Department already has in the wastewater treatment plant and sewer pumping stations, will give the department the ability to monitor and activate the pump station.”
The pump station is currently connected to both the city’s stormwater system and city sewer system. Both of those systems are in a bypass mode, with stormwater flowing by gravity into the river and sewerage, from most of the city’s downtown area, to the treatment plant.
But the station has the capability of pumping both storm water and sewerage into the Westfield River during major flooding events.
Cressotti said that during a flooding event a back-flow protection device on the stormwater drainage system would close to prevent flood water from backing up through drainage pipes, causing flooding of low-lying areas protected by the levee.
Those same flood waters could shut down the sewerage treatment plant, causing effluent to back up in sewer lines, threatening to flood residences and commercials building in the same low-lying neighborhoods with raw sewerage. The city, in a flood emergency, would have the ability to pump both stormwater and sewerage directly into the flooded Westfield River.

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