Thetford awarded Municipal Planning Grant for water systems study

The Town Plan focuses housing and economic development in Thetford's 5 villages, but some villages are struggling with access to potable water.

The Town of Thetford has been awarded $22,000 from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Development for a study of Thetford's private water systems. The Town will be required to contribute $2,312 towards the study for a total project cost of $24,312.

The project goals are to identify the operational and capital needs, viablity, and sustainability of the various independent water companies in the town to ensure regulatory compliance and promote future growth.

The grant was supported by a consortium of representatives from Thetford's private water companies that met with the Town Manager in early October.

The grant application explains that Thetford currently operates with an ad hoc system of numerous private water companies that vary in size based primarily on well size, distribution system limits, annual water costs, and whether they want to be regulated by the state. "All the water companies are independently managed by the owner-users and though they are cognizant of the other water companies, there is not a town-wide uniform approach to the management of the water systems. The lack of a coordinated approach precludes effective municipal planning, especially for housing and economic development."

The grant application outlines two examples of challenges that Thetford's private water companies are facing:

1. The North Thetford Union Water Company is being mandated by the state to make substantial capital improvements to its water systems at an estimated cost of  $500,000 for the 23 residences that the system serves. There are two other water companies in North Thetford that each serve 9 residences, below the state's 10-unit threshold that would trigger regulation of the systems as public water sources. "It makes sense to plan to upgrade and unify the three-water system into one coordinated water system," the application states.

2. The East Thetford Water Company serves approximately 35 users; however, they've been struggling with issues related to water contamination that required the drilling of a new well in 2019. The new well has elevated levels of iron and manganese, which requires a new filtration system. Water supply issues have caused some users to leave the system in favor of private wells, increasing costs for the remaining users on the system.

The project will address the issue of providing potable water to existing residences and businesses and the need for modernization and expansion for housing and economic growth in designated village centers.

Our approach is to conduct a comprehensive study of the present and projected water requirements for each of Thetford's villages and how they might be realistically achieved to promote future growth.

The study will result in a strategic planning document that identifies in detail the condition of the current water systems. The document would be used to develop long-term solutions and as a resource for future grant applications.

"The independent water companies in town are private non-profit entities and are strained financially to undertake a study on their own or as a consortium and it is not feasible for taxpayer funds to fully pay for the study," the application states.

Thetford's Town Plan and zoning focuses development in village centers, but private wells are typically not feasible in these areas due to smaller lot sizes and proximate septic systems or other contaminates, such as the former Post Mills landfill. This makes growth in Thetford difficult to impossible.

The study will be managed by a committee including the Town Manager, representatives from Thetford’s private water companies, and a representative each from the Planning Commission and from the Housing Committee.

An overview of units and water systems by village:

• East Thetford: 100 housing units with 35 on a regulated system and the remainder on private wells.

• North Thetford: 50 units with 23 on a regulated system and the remainder on two unregulated systems (9 each) and private wells.

• Thetford Hill: 100 units with 41 on a regulated system and the remainder on private wells.

• Thetford Center: 50 units all on private wells.

• Post Mills: 100 units with 9 on an unregulated system and the remainder on private wells.

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