The amount of activities handled by the Wellesley Department of Public Works can make your head spin. Even though Mother Nature has taken it easy so far this winter on the DPW, the department has a ton going on, as summarized at the Jan. 10 Board of Public Works meeting (see Wellesley Media recording).
A PFAS warning
To date, Wellesley’s primary problem with unwelcome PFAS chemicals in its drinking water has been at its Morses Pond wells, and that’s been getting treated since the summer. However, DPW Director David Cohen gave a heads up that his team is seeing “discouraging” PFAS numbers at the Longfellow/Rosemary wells, and as of Jan. 10 was bracing for December numbers that could put the town in violation of state thresholds. That would mean the town would need to go through a public notification and education process as it did when its Morses Pond numbers were too high for 3 straight months.
Wellesley gets about 150,000 gallons of water a day out of Rosemary/Longfellow, whereas it gets about 800,000 gallons a day at Morses Pond, where PFAS treatment is in effect. But the town has also been planning upgrades to the Rosemary/Longfellow site so that it could produce more like 600,000 gallons a day there.
Cohen recommended against going ahead with a $659K well replacement contract for now in light of the PFAS numbers and unclarity on the regulations front. It initially seemed like the replacement would pay for itself within a few years, but the possibility of temporary or permanent PFAS treatment has caused the town to rethink things. One possibility would be putting a contract out to bid for the Rosemary well, but not the Longfellow one, where higher PFAS numbers have surfaced.
The town continues its research into possible sources of PFAS in its water, and while the Morses Pond data is looking inconclusive, there is some indication that Wellesley might be dealing with more of a surface water than ground water situation at Rosemary, which is near Rte. 9.
The town is also continuing talks with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority on building a second connection to it to allow for possibly more use of its water supply. The town relied heavily on MWRA water when the Morses Pond treatment system was down. Wellesley would prefer to rely on its own supply, giving it more control, but the emergence of PFAS has forced the town to consider different options.
This is all happening against a backdrop in which it’s unknown what sort of actions the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency might take regarding PFAS.
Weston Road construction on tap for summer
The next high profile roadway fix-up in town is set to be Weston Road, the high traffic path between Weston and Wellesley Square, with Rte. 9 in between. Weston Road was called Blossom Street back in the day, before being accepted by the town around 1950. The road has taken an expected beating given its heavy use, and the sidewalks overall are in rough condition (fortunately, beneath the road, pipes are generally in good shape). Weston Road was last given a full paving in 1986.
The DPW is already working on the design (funds were set aside for a survey, design and bidding in its FY22 capital plan) for this 3,800-foot-long road, and Wellesley plans to go out for bid on the project this spring. It will look to Town Meeting for funds—construction is estimated to cost $3.5M.
Town Engineer Dave Hickey shared a presentation with the Board of Public Works. Neighbors can expect to hear from the town on this as well, as Wellesley looks to get the project out to bid in the February-March timeframe.
The project has its fair share of challenges, including trees along the sidewalks and narrow rights of way (this, Hickey said, will make adding bike lanes difficult). The big challenge, though, might be that there is no easy way to route detours around this major north-south route that is mostly residential. Roughly 10,000 vehicles head up or down Weston Road each day. “I don’t see a way right now to get this work done without having a significant amount of it be done at night, which we hate to do in residential neighborhoods,” he said.
The hope would be to start construction in June and finish within the season.
Wood recycling hot, pricey
The Wellesley Recycling & Disposal Facility has seen about a 20% increase (vs. its budget) in wood tonnage for recycling. That’s great, as the wood is being kept out of landfills. The troubling thing is that the cost to recycle it is up 70% vs. what was budgeted. It’s unclear at this point if there’s an increase in any particular sort of wood products being brought to the RDF.
New Water & Sewer superintendent
Steve Olson was introduced as the town’s new water & sewer superintendent, succeeding longtime town employee Bill Shaughnessy, who recently retired.
The DPW recently took delivery of its first all-electric vehicle, a 2023 Chevy Bolt partially funded with a $7,500 grant from a state grant program.
The Bolt, boasting a range of 247 miles when fully charged, will largely be used for project oversight and inspections in town.
The DPW is prepping for delivery of another 7 electric vehicles that will replace gas-powered ones.
Four charging stations have been installed at DPW headquarters.
Town Meeting articles
DPW leaders will present their FY24 budget proposal and Annual Town Meeting warrant articles (including 1 regarding a stormwater enterprise fund) before the Advisory Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 18. The meeting begins at 6:30 and can be viewed on cable TV and online via Wellesley Media.