LITTLETON — Town Meeting on Sunday approved significant funding requests for major water and sewer projects, including $17 million for a new water treatment facility on Whitcomb Avenue.
The facility will treat water from sources at Spectacle Pond and the wells on Whitcomb Avenue for iron, manganese and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the latter of which were discovered in town drinking water last year.
“We need to put this filter system in to clean up the drinking water for us here in the town of Littleton, because there’s nothing more precious than having good, clean water for our babies, our children and for our seniors — and for everybody in general,” said resident George Sanders.
The funding approved Sunday will be combined with $13 million in borrowing previously authorized by Town Meeting in May 2018 and October last year to construct the facility. The full $30 million for the treatment plant will be borrowed through the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust at a 0% interest rate, thanks to an additional vote to amend the previous votes on the funding authorizations.
Littleton Electric Light & Water Departments (LELWD) Water Quality Manager Corey Godfrey said borrowing the money interest-free will save the ratepayers $3.4 million over the 20-year bond.
LELWD General Manager Nick Lawler said the original plan, funded at $7 million in 2018, was to construct an iron and manganese filtration facility at Whitcomb Avenue. However, after the facility was fully designed and ready to bid, he said, PFAS was found first in the water in Spectacle Pond and later at the Whitcomb Avenue wells last year.
“Unfortunately another problem in the form of PFAs came out of nowhere and forced us to completely rethink our approach to treating water in Littleton,” Godfrey said.
He said PFAS primarily harms pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants, interfering with fetal and infant development, and is linked to thyroid problems and some types of cancer.
Last fall, Town Meeting approved another $6 million to implement an immediate short-term solution and begin planning for the long-term solution to ensure residents have safe and clean drinking water, Lawler said. He said a life-cycle cost analysis determined the best and most economical route would be to build one larger treatment facility that removes iron, manganese and PFAS, rather than separate treatment plants filtering out different contaminants at either site.
Lawler said the borrowing for the project will be paid back by water rates, and ratepayers can expect to see the average residential water bill increase by $18 per month.
“But, at the end of this project, all of Littleton’s water sources will be filtered, and the reliability of our service will be dramatically improved,” he said.
Godfrey said the town has already spent about $2.3 million in its efforts to remove PFAS from the water supply, including the temporary blending pipeline installed earlier this year to…