The result was that water carrying E. coli bacteria was coming out of customers’ taps.
While some people pointed to the utility’s aging infrastructure, including a hole in the top of its Congress Street water tank, for the problem, testing on the bacteria eventually traced the contaminants to Echo Lake, Condrey said. In addition to spurring the consent order to build the new treatment plant, the 13-day shutdown led to thousands of dollars in fines against the company, and a criminal case that is still pending against a former manager accused of tampering with water samples.
The utility has continued to struggle with total THM levels, and spent much of the last year trying to remedy the situation, eventually adding layers of activated charcoal to the treatment system’s filters to capture more organic material from the water being drawn both from Echo Lake and the Charles River.
The new water treatment facility will replace the company’s slow-sand filtering system, which has been in place since the 19th century, and provide customers with water that is five times cleaner, Condrey said.
The new facility will treat the same 5 million gallons of water a day as the current works, but will make its output far cleaner through the use of a modern diffused air filtration system and a separate granular-activated carbon filter. The new system also will be more efficient, recycling and reusing hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per day now discharged as waste, Condrey said.
But the new facility comes with a hefty price tag that Milford Water initially had thought the state would help finance.
Rules changed last year on what projects could be funded through the State Revolving Fund, leaving Milford Water without financing even as the company was nearing the agreement’s deadline for putting the project out to bid.
“It was very troubling at the time,” Condrey said of the loss of state funding. “Under the order, financing or not, the deadline is the deadline.”
The company eventually secured a construction loan from People’s United Bank.
If approved, the new rate would raise the average water bill for Milford homeowners from $77.31 per quarter to $141.79, according to the company.
Condrey said the rate increase would amount to about $20 a month for most households, but could be lessened through water conservation efforts.
“It is something we can control — we can control our consumption,’’ Condrey said. “We encourage people to conserve water, and offer up tips all the time.”
Milford Water’s filing for the requested rate increase can be examined at the company’s Dilla Street offices, where it is in a white, three-ring binder on the front counter, and on the company’s website, www.milfordwater.com.
Jose Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.