Nothing worth having comes easy. Certainly, this was the case for the Hinesburg Water Department’s search for an abundant source of potable water, begun in 1995 when one of the village wells began pumping turbid water and its yield dropped. Now, after four years of looking for the right site for a replacement and doubling the number of customers who use the water system, Hinesburg residents “look forward to completing their water system improvements” says Richard Martin, a water operator for the town.
After the No. 2 well began pumping turbid water, the Hinesburg Water Department drilled three wells and found sufficient amounts of water, though one of the wells drilled depleted a nearby spring. Unfortunately, the high volume of particulate matter in the water rendered it unusable without expensive treatment. To avoid these treatment costs, the town abandoned these wells as potable sources of water. The search for drinking water continued and, to make matter worse, the dry summer of 1995 pressed the limits of the Water Department’s only remaining water well.

The Water Department investigated a fourth well site in the village in 1996. Unfortunately, the proposed well site was several hundred feet from the Water Department’s only water source. Two wells so near each other could have made for excessive competition for water between existing wells serving businesses along with the single well serving the community. Interference between wells could impact any or all of the wells and like the above spring become depleted. Also, the village was dotted with several hazardous waste sites, any of which could impact the proposed well’s water quality. Groundwater quantity and quality hurdles were evident, although more obvious were the residential water outages throughout the village’s distribution area. The commitment to provide a safe and reliable water source for the village pushed town officials to take a chance on the proposed site.

Prior to drilling the new well, a geological examination of existing information revealed a thick layer of clay within the village soils. This clay layer had the potential to impede and possibly negate the movement of surrounding contaminants into the underlying aquifer. Below the clay was limestone. A highly fractured limestone could supply large quantities of water and existing well data supported this idea. Wells in the valley were found to have relatively high yields. An abundant and safe supply of water was just what the village needed.

The village drilled to a depth of 700 feet. Approximately 65 feet of clay-like material was first encountered. The remaining depth was limestone, and, as hoped, consisted of many small water-contributing fractures. The considerable depth of the well along with the numerous fractures accounted for a large well yield. Pumping the well for five continuous days and monitoring neighboring wells for interference established that the new well could safely pump 140 gallons per minute. Water quality sampling results also proved favorable, the well yield met drinking water standards and costly treatment was unnecessary. The new village well was quickly put into service, much to the pleasure of the water system’s customers.

The struggle for a reliable source of water paid off, and the village seemed set for the foreseeable future. At the same time, several small community water systems surrounding the village were struggling to meet their water needs. Insufficient water quantity along with water quality problems plagued these public water systems within the town. Both drilled wells and dug wells were problematic. For example, concentrations of naturally occurring radionuclides in one drilled well were high enough to prevent its use, and volatile organic chemical contamination kept a second well off-line. All of the water systems with dug wells had suffered bacteria problems. In addition, shallow water systems such as dug wells provided little natural filtration and, in turn, were often unprotected from sources of giardia, cryptosporidia, or other waterborne pathogenic microorganisms. Water outages had become common in recent years and were again in the news during 1999. So serious were the 1999 dry conditions that the National Guard delivered water tankers to the town.

Town officials, water system owners and operators, hydrogeologists and engineers, along with Agency of Natural Resources officials coordinated the planning, design, construction, and financing of an infra-structure to resolve these problems. The Hinesburg Water Department, confident of its new water source, agreed to connect with the water systems outside the village.

This undertaking involved not only the new well but renovations to an existing well house, the installation of approximately 4.5 miles of new transmission main, the construction of two new pump stations, and a new 500,000 gallon concrete water storage tank. Both the Sunny Acres and Mountain View Water Systems installed new distribution lines. Provisions for the connection of Triple L and Sunset Lake Villa Water Systems were also made.

“The water system improvements could not have come at a better time. The 1999 drought made people realize what a great commodity water is,” says Town Administrator Kathleen Ramsay. By the fall of 1999, Hinesburg had completed approximately $7 million worth of water system improvements and more than doubled its number of customers.

The successful development of Hinesburg’s water system involved a community committed to a safe, abundant water supply. Continued success will also require a commitment to water conservation and protection. The adequacy of conservation and protection will, however, depend on the actions of individuals. Small leaks from faucets and pipes can amount to large volumes of water wasted. Periodically checking for leaks and installing low flow devices can greatly reduce the volumes of water used. Likewise, small volumes of contaminates can pollute tremendous quantities of groundwater. Pouring unwanted gas or oil onto the ground can pollute subsurface aquifers.

Drinking water is a community resource, one that is shared. Individual actions can largely influence the expense and safety of our drinking water resources. As communities grow, dependence upon and competition for this resource will increase. Implementa-tion of conservation and protection practices will be vital to securing safe drinking water statewide.

To learn more about drinking water in Vermont, please visit the Water Supply Division’s website at www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/watersup/wsd.htm or contact the Division at (802) 241-3400.

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