Voters say 'yes' to $12.5 million water treatment plant

By Matthew Bernat | Apr 11, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Wareham Fire District officials sit on stage beneath a slide describing a $12.5 million request for a new water treatment plant. Voters approved the request on Monday night.

The average bill for Wareham water users is going up, but high levels of two minerals that cause discoloration and health problems is coming down.

Voters at the Wareham Fire District Annual Meeting approved Monday funding a $12.5 million water treatment plant to address high amounts of iron and manganese in the drinking water supply.

Water officials said the problem of iron, which causes tap water to become a rusty color, is mostly cosmetic. However, it does generate a large amount of complaints.

High levels of manganese, on the other hand, is known to cause health issues, including neurological problems. The manganese issue prompted a warning from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to the district – either bring those levels down or face state intervention.

“The regulators have told us if we don’t act, they will act. They will dictate what we do, how we do it and how much we’re going to spend,” said Wareham Water District Superintendent Andrew Reid.

And by a vote of 99 to 26, annual meeting participants heeded Reid’s advice, but not before some vigorous protest.

“We don’t need this plant. I know you think we do…but you’re not paying the bill, we are,” resident John Assad told Reid. “We’re struggling with taxes and every kind of increase you can think of.”

Reid said approving the plant will increase the average water bill, which is between $250 and $300 bi-annually, by approximately $72.

In Wareham, water bills are based on usage. In a bid to spread the cost of the plant evenly, resident Ed Pacewicz introduced a measure that would have charged all water customers equally.

“We’re going to pay two to three times more for a plant than a seasonal person would. I don’t think that’s fair,” said Pacewicz referring to year round residents.

Pacewicz’s measure failed. Several voters said it was unfair to those who use a small amount of water, such as the elderly and small families, compared to high-volume commercial users.

The new plant will be funded with a low interest loan from the state, to be paid back over 20 years. According to the district’s consulting engineering firm, the plant will add $260,000 to the annual operating budget. Reid said future rate increases may be required to cover the cost. No new staff will be needed to operate the plant, Reid noted.

Comments (15)
Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 11, 2017 07:31

How much is this going to cost Onset residents ?

Looks like it's time to sell and move away from Wareham politics.

Posted by: Jaime Rebhan | Apr 11, 2017 08:21

Hi Cranky!


This won't impact Onset residents, as the Onset Fire District, which includes the Onset Water Department, operates independently.




Posted by: | Apr 11, 2017 08:48

“We don’t need this plant. I know you think we do…but you’re not paying the bill, we are,” resident John Assad told Reid. “We’re struggling with taxes and every kind of increase you can think of.”

-John I agree 100%, this is a waste. Its not about the cost of a coffee anymore. There is no more money.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 11, 2017 11:17

In the delicate balance of household budgets and personal health it's difficult to put a price on the value of drinking water quality. That said, woe is just around the corner for those who use water outside because they love gardening, be it flowers and/or vegetables, treasure carefully planned plantings, or wish their lawn to be green.

Posted by: Rosebud | Apr 11, 2017 11:33

That's just the "base" price.  We'll probably have to hire more people to operate this plant, higher insurance costs, etc., etc.

Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 11, 2017 13:12

Could I get clarification here?  The added estimate of $72 is bi-annually? Or $144 a year. And if extra personnel is needed that is extra, I get that , but also included in your water bill?  None of this is part of the Town budget?

Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 11, 2017 13:13

And this only applies to Wareham?

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 11, 2017 14:26

The better time for some questions to have been asked would have been in advance of the opportunity to vote. I spent almost an hour with Water District Superintendent Andrew Reid a few weeks ago and he patiently and thoroughly answered the many questions I asked including calculating, based upon our history of water usage, the likely impact on our water bill.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 11, 2017 16:30

The selectman should step in and stop any permits for this to be issued until this can be voted on in a way that's convenient for more of the Town to get a chance to vote on this. This is a large sum of money on top of a large sum of money for fancy trucks on top of a large increase in the budgets of this District. This has a profound affect on any increases needed for actual Town business. Rate payers just cannot keep up with paying for a contest between departments on who can get the most trucks , buildings and department expanding projects. This needs more input than 128 people. Look at the trucks the Fire Department has now. Every Tom dick and harry is cruising in a 50,000 truck. Its time to rid this Town of this leach known as the District system.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 11, 2017 16:49

Sphere did you intend to write "50,000" truck, or perhaps some other number?

Posted by: brazz | Apr 11, 2017 18:28

SPHEREBREAKER You do know that most of them have another full time job.

Posted by: Chaka | Apr 11, 2017 19:12

Only 125 people showed up to vote. If people in the town can't be bothered to show up and vote "no" and tell the cranberry bogs clean up their own mess, then I guess it's fair that you get charged an extra $75 as a lazy tax. You. Guys really blew it.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 11, 2017 19:55

Was supposed to be $50000

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 11, 2017 19:58

Was supposed to be $50000

Posted by: WWareham resident | Apr 12, 2017 09:31

$50000 is the average cost of one of the new pickup trucks. You can get base models lower but with any options they require a mortgage to pay for them. I know because I have one that new would have been a $57,000 truck, that's why I bought mine certified pre owned.


Now this water plant, ridiculous that a vote of 128 people who could make a Monday night meeting can approve everyone in the town having to pay even more for water that is not clean enough for human consumption right now. Maybe, and that's a big maybe, after this proposed $12.5 million plant (that winds up costing closer to $15 million) is built we can drink this crap but I doubt it very much. It is robbery every time I get a water bill now and to think it's going to go up on $72 per billing cycle is a PIPEDREAM, double or triple that number and you are getting closer.

This town is in financial trouble and all they want to do is spend spend spend. Why not it's not their money they are playing with.... If I could get anywhere close to what I paid for my house in 2005 I would move out of here in a minute but I would be lucky to only lose $75,000 if we had to sell right now. Everywhere else around has seen housing prices come back to the levels of 2005/6 but not Wareham because of stupid decisions like this, sober house and any other money grab project that passes the selectman desks.


Time to dig a well for outside irrigation so the town gets nothing else from you but a permit fee but they'll probably deny anyone asking for permits to dig a well because they need you to pay for the shiny new plant they want.

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