Brattleboro water main project complete

Brattleboro water main project complete

DPW prepares for spring and summer work, including new sewer line and final repairs on former Chestnut Hill dam

BRATTLEBORO — Emergency replacement of a Main Street main serving the town's drinking water, fire hydrants, and sprinkler systems was completed last week ahead of the project's deadline.

Public Works Director Steve Barrett said he was pleased with Zaluzny Construction's work and noted that residents might see a few cosmetic pieces being finished this week.

The Vernon-based firm replaced 300-feet of an 8-inch water main with new 12-inch pipe and repaired a section of damaged sidewalk along the east side of Main Street, starting at 133 Main and moving north.

The new work expands the capacity of the water system, which moves an average of 1.5 million gallons per day and services more than 3,500 connections.

The town wanted the project completed by mid-May, before the start of graduation activity, the Strolling of the Heifers weekend, and the arrival of summer tourists.

Two broken valves

A ruptured sprinkler-line valve precipitated the project.

In February, the valve broke, sending 160,000 gallons into the basement of the Brattleboro Bike Shop at 165 Main St., and the basement offices of the Strolling of the Heifers, 157 Main St.

Barrett said that the first broken valve was installed in the 1890s.

The second broken valve was installed in the early 1990s, a time when contractors were forgoing stainless-steel bolts, a practice that shortens the valve's lifespan.

The DPW put the project on an accelerated timeline in order to complete work prior to the summer's event and travel season. The Selectboard agreed with this decision and approved the project and Zaluzny's bid.

It would have been dangerous to have a hole in the sidewalk during the busy pedestrian season, said Barrett, who thanked the residents, business owners, and everyone using downtown for their patience during construction.

The DPW estimated the work would cost $150,000, Barrett explained. The only contractor to bid, Zaluzny, submitted a bid of $178,143.

“I think we paid a little more as a result,” Barrett said. “But that was a ripple effect of the emergency [in February].”

He explained that the DPW had submitted its bid request to the statewide contractor-notification system, the Vermont Bid List. The department also contacted local contractors directly to encourage bids, he said.

Barrett accepts that the bid came in higher than his estimate. Complicating the project: approximately 10 tie-overs, or places where workers needed to connect the new pipe to the existing infrastructure.

Another complication: Under the asphalt pavement of Main Street was an approximately 9-inch layer of concrete. This road surface from the 1930s had to be removed and transported in 8-foot-by-8-foot slabs. Cutting the concrete also required specialized equipment.

Finally, digging into the town's water system, which has evolved over several centuries, is a journey into the unknown, similar to opening the walls of an old house and exposing the unknown, Barrett added.

For the most part, the DPW's water system maps are up to date, Barrett said. The contractor did find a few discontinued pipes that once served different town services, for example some out-of-service lead pipes and lines that at one time carried coal gas.

Still, Barrett said not much would have changed regarding the May deadline even if emergency work and an accelerated timeline hadn't factored into the project.

Even if he'd had more time to plan, Barrett said, he likely would have scheduled the work for the same time frame of late April into May.

And given the unknowns of what infrastructure rested under the sidewalk, there are no guarantees the town would have saved money, he added.

Work planned for the summer

As the new fiscal year starts on July 1, the DPW also begins its round of summer projects.

The department will begin its summer paving in the new fiscal year. This round of paving is different from the spring paving underway in the Esteyville neighborhood [“Spring road work underway,” News, May 15].

Barrett said he will announce which streets will be part of the summer work soon.

An upgrade is planned for the town's wastewater system: a new line that will allow wastewater to travel directly to the DPW's wastewater treatment plant.

Barrett estimates adding the new line from Pleasant Valley Treatment Plant to West Brattleboro will cost as much as $900,000.

But the new line will also save the town approximately $40,000 a year.

Currently, the department sends the waste through a filter system, then backwashes the filters into a series of lagoons, treats that water, and then (under a permit) releases the treated water into a nearby tributary of the Whetstone.

The DPW anticipates finishing close to 10 years of incremental improvements to the former Chestnut Hill reservoir and dam this summer, much to Barrett's relief.

Barrett held several public meetings over several years asking residents whether they wanted to abandon, remove, or stabilize the former reservoir.

The neighborhood opted for stabilization.

The department has budgeted $280,000 to help stabilize the dam, install overflow piping, and seal the reservoir with a new cement lining. A new fence has been built around the reservoir.

Last year, the DPW received a permit to restore the dam and will do that work this summer.

Barrett said the department has worked with several engineers and personnel from the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Dam Safety Program to make improvements to the site.

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