Water System History

The Brewster water system had its genesis on November 9th, 1970 when, at a Special Town Meeting, Brewster Voters approved a bond issue of $3,220,000.00 dollars for the establishment of a public water system. The engineering firm of Whitman & Howard was engaged to design the system and in May of 1972 the first Brewster resident received water from a public supply. To oversee and control the operation of the system, a three-man board of Water Commissioners was elected at the regular Town election in March of 1973.

The original system as designed and built consisted of two, twenty-four inch, gravel-packed wells each capable of delivering one million gallons of water per day, a two-million gallon standpipe and forty-two miles of water main ranging in size from six to twenty inch diameter. Three hundred and seventy five hydrants were installed and by the end of 1974 there were 1634 customers being served. A wired telemetry system between the well pumps and the main office provided control over the system from the main office. To cope with power failures or motor failure, Well #2 was equipped with an auxiliary LP gas engine capable of running the pump to capacity. By 1982, just a decade after the first customer received water, the system was servicing 2919 customers with seventy-seven miles of pipe.

The rapid growth of Brewster in the nineteen eighties necessitated a considerable expansion of the system. In January of 1983 the Commissioners sponsored an article in a Special Town Meeting to bond and develop a third well near Rafe Pond. In 1986, three years later, Well #3 was on line. The continuing and unprecedented growth of the town further led the Commissioners to engage Whitman & Howard, consulting engineers, to undertake a complete System Study to aid in planning for the future up to the year 2010.

The Study was completed in late 1988 but many of its findings were known to the Commissioners well before publication. Of critical concern was insufficient water storage capacity to provide adequate fire protection during the summer peak water use. A second standpipe was clearly needed and the Town voted funds for this addition in 1988. In August of 1990 standpipe #2 was on line.

Meanwhile the Department of Environmental Protection was becoming very active, setting progressively more stringent standards for water quality. This was the result of mandates from the Congressional Acts of 1986 amending the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. One such standard pertained to contaminants, particularly lead and copper, which leached from pipes within the home as a result of the Cape’s naturally acidic groundwater. It was clear that Brewster would not be able to meet the standards in the future without treatment of the water to substantially increase its natural pH from a very acidic 5.6 to a neutral 7.0 or above.

After thorough investigation, including a Corrosion Study, the Commissioners decided that for Brewster, the preferred type of treatment was lime. Accordingly, the design and construction of two treatment facilities, one serving Wells #1 and #2, which are close together and another serving Well #3 began. These facilities went on line in early 1990 and have proven very successful and well designed. The pH of Brewster’s treated water is now being maintained at between 7.2 and 7.4.

As Well #3 neared completion, a change was made in the telemetry system. The original telephone line system was replaced by a radio transmitted control network. This computer controlled S.C.A.D.A. (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system has proven to be far superior and more reliable. This system underwent a minor upgrade in 1996.

The S.C.A.D.A. system allows the department to operate a 24 hour, even day system basically on a 40 hour work week. This is done under a comprehensive operations plan approved by the D.E.P..

In accordance with the recommendations of the Towns System Study, a fourth well in the western part of town was developed and the pumping station and treatment facility was completed and on line in 1992. Well #4 began experiencing elevated iron and manganese concentrations in 1994 and continued to be one of the department's main focus for remedial action. Treatment for these minerals began with the addition of a sequesterant to keep the minerals soluble and so less evident. This met with only limited success. Other chemicals were evaluated for effectiveness for short term correction. It became increasingly evident that the long term solution had to be removal of these minerals which is a costly process. The well was removed from regular service in August, 1997, and a permanent solution sought. Studies of current technology and Brewster’s water quality at Well #4 produced a recommendation to build a greensand filtration treatment facility to remove the offending minerals.

The Brewster Greensand Filtration Treatment Facility was approved by voters in November 1998 and construction began in the fall of 2000. The facility began producing treated water in October 2001 and is functional and near completion by the General Contractor. The Facility is producing excellent water quality and Well #4 is producing water for the Town for the first time in almost 5 years. The S.C.A.D.A. telemetry system has been completely replaced in conjunction with the new Treatment Facility, providing a more reliable and much more detailed computerized control and alarm system for the operation of the water supply.

In 1996, Congress reauthorized the Safe Drinking Water Act. Highlights include: identification of additional contaminants for analysis. This is in addition to over 100 parameters presently tested for. A mandatory annual Consumer Confidence Report is now required which provides the results of all detectable analyses of our consumers drinking water and their meaning in easy to understand language. A State revolving fund for capital improvements to enhance water quality has been created. Training and professional licensing of water operations personnel is now required by the new Safe Drinking Water Act for the operation of a public water supply.
Additional improvements completed during the 1990s include:

* New billing format with newsletter to better communicate with the consumer.
* Institution of a system flushing program.
* Digital mapping of the water system.
* Auxiliary engine and drive for Well #1. All four pump stations now have emergency pumping equipment installed.
* Standby generators for emergency power supply for all treatment facilities.
* Establishment of a comprehensive safety program.
* New water metering system utilizing radio transmissions for meter reading.
* Full transition for radio reading will be about the year 2007.
* Pumps have been replaced in three of four pump stations.

Since the events of September 11th 2001, additional measures have been taken to protect the Town’s water supply. A second threat, a historically low water table is constantly being monitored at the local, regional and state level. Only time will tell if the weather and water recharge is in a short and modified cycle or a more serious trend. The water conservation issue has taken a large step forward in public water supply operations.

Planned improvements for the 2000s include:

* The fourth pump will be replaced in 2002.
* Final exploration for future water sources for the Town.
* Rehabilitation of both standpipes.
* Water main improvements and expansion in the southwestern area of Town.
* Development of a fifth water supply well.
* Updating main office and operations facility at 1671 Main Street.

At the present time the system consists of:
Four 24 inch, gravel packed wells:

* Well #1 --- 960 gallons per minute
* Well #2 --- 1100 gallons per minute
* Corrosion Control facility (lime) common to Wells #1 and #2
* Well #3 --- 1060 gallons per minute
* Corrosion Control facility serving Well #3
* Well #4 --- 980 gallons per minute
* Well #4 Greensand Filtration Treatment Facility for corrosion control and mineral filtration.

All pump stations are equipped with auxiliary engines and permanent stand-by chlorination equipment
All treatment facilities are equipped with auxiliary generators for emergency power.

Two standpipes:

* One 2,000,000 gallons (original)
* One 3,000,000 gallons

Distribution system

* 103 miles of water main (six to twenty inch diameter)
* 6,900 Service Accounts
* 1300 hydrants
* A computerized radio transmitted S.C.A.D.A. control system that monitors and controls operation of the entire supply, treatment, storage and distribution system.

The department has six field personnel, Foreman, Water Treatment Operator and Superintendent for operational staff. The office staff consists of an Office Supervisor, one full-time Senior Clerk and one part-time clerical position. Currently six of nine operations personnel and one of three office staff are licensed as Massachusetts Certified Drinking Water Supply Operators.

Brewster Water Department has been operated informally as a self funded utility since 1991. In 1998, a new Ten Year Master Plan was developed to determine long range capital costs for the Department. New water rates were established to accommodate more than $11,000,000 in projected expenses for the ten year period. For the calendar year 2001, the Department pumped over 478,000,000 gallons to a winter population of 9,500 and approximately 35,000 summer residents and visitors.

This 100% metered system is read twice annually with a Badger meter reading system and billed with a Department operated DataNational Water Administration program. For the past eight years, a newsletter, “The Pipeline” has been produced in-house to provide our customers with information and is sent with each billing. Beginning in 1998, an annual Water Quality Report has been distributed to Brewster’s water customers with their February bill.

The Brewster Water Department is proud to have received Massachusetts Drinking Water Awards for 1991, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999 and letter of recognition for third place in the year 1995 for the "medium size community ground water source" category. The Department also received “Best Overall Community System” and a Source Water Protection Award for Groundwater Source” in 1998. In addition, the Department received the 1996 Massachusetts Water Works Association, Community Award of Merit “In recognition of the high Standard of Water Supply Practice”. We have also been recognized for our work in wellhead and groundwater protection in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Environmental Protection booklet, "Your Drinking Water".

The Brewster Water Department's mission is to provide potable water of the best possible quality and quantity to as many people as possible who desire it. We are dedicated to quality customer relations and service through teamwork with Water Works pride!