Tasting the Difference - Public Outreach for the Town of Newmarket’s New Source

Authors:

  • Michael Greeley PE, Matthew Valade PE - Hazen and Sawyer
  • Sean Greig - Town of Newmarket, NH

The existing wells do not fully meet average daily demand, nor peak use periods. The MacIntosh Well can provide additional reliability and sufficient water for fire flows.

After evaluating the options the Town proceeded with a cost-effective compromise via a blending facility that would blend the new source with the existing distribution system water.

A trained panel tested the drinking water blends for taste and odor, which was then was used to determine blends for testing by Town customers.

Public outreach included a public forum for consumers to participate in a blind taste test of the new distribution system well water.

The primary goal of all water suppliers is to ensure public safety by striving to meet all regulatory requirements, however the need to increase supplies to foster community growth can often require suppliers to consider sources of supply that could be aesthetically less desirable than existing sources. The Town of Newmarket, NH recently faced such a decision.

After shuttering their treatment facility in 2004, Newmarket has operated two high-quality groundwater sources that only need chlorine disinfection and pH control to meet regulations. However due to steady growth throughout the past decade, the two wells are no longer capable of keeping up with demand, and are often pumped past recommended safe yields in order to keep up with demand during the summer months.

To supplement the existing supply, the town received a permit to draw water from a separate water field with higher TDS, manganese, and chloride, posing a potential aesthetics issue for the customers who were used to very little taste in their drinking water. While the new well water quality does not pose any risks to consumers and meets all regulatory requirements, the inorganic constituents could potentially exceed the EPA Secondary Maximum Contaminant Levels (SMCLs). Given the high quality of the Town’s existing sources, the Town was concerned that without additional treatment, consumers will be able to detect aesthetic differences in the new supply, hurting consumer confidence.

Preliminary design considerations ranged from blending to more costly and labor-intensive options including electrodialysis reversal (EDR). The EDR treatment would produce drinking water with a similar flavor profile to the existing well supply, but would be a more expensive option than what is needed to meet regulatory requirements. After evaluating the options the Town proceeded with a cost-effective compromise via a blending facility that would blend the new source with the existing distribution system water. The blending facility will reduce all constituent concentrations to meet the SMCLs, though there could still be a change in the flavor profile of the water.

In order to ensure public confidence in the design, the Town implemented an aggressive outreach program to notify consumers and determine whether the new product would be aesthetically acceptable. The program included a flavor profile analysis to assess the potential blends of the new well, notification to the consumers of the potential impacts of the new constituents, and even a public forum for consumers to participate in a blind taste test of the new distribution system well water. Data from the public was used to validate the design decisions for maximum allowable percentage of the new source that could be permissible through the blending facility.

This paper will discuss the experience in the town of Newmarket, NH and provide input on how utilities facing similar decisions can utilize public outreach to ensure a successful project.

For more information, please contact the author at mgreeley@hazenandsawyer.com.

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