Five years ago, complaints about the water system in Hinesburg were rampant, Selectboard members recalled. Now just over a year after the new filtration system has been pumping Hinesburg was voted the best-tasting drinking water in the state of Vermont by the Vermont Rural Water Association for National Water Week on May 10.
One of the perks of winning is that Hinesburg’s water will travel to Washington D.C. next February to be tested and tasted against other states’ winning water samples.
The improvement is the result of work the town has done to expand the water system’s added filtration. The old water system ruined hot water heaters and forced 25 percent of houses to have water purification systems, said Erik Bailey, superintendent of the town’s Water Works Department. The water was “hard” with lots of calcium that would cause calcification on appliances, he explained.
“It’s now a custom blend of the water to get the best blend of minerals,” Bailey said. He added the water comes from a spring in St. George, and the owner is from Hinesburg.
Selectboard member Aaron Kimball said that because the water is so good now, his household is saving money by not needing to filter water.
Though that doesn’t come cheap to the town as a whole. Municipal fixed and water usage rates are estimated to increase 19 percent on residents’ water bills in July. That amounts to an additional $1.95 a week per household that uses 150 gallons per day.
The large bond taken out for the water filtration system is starting to be paid off in the next fiscal year, and repairs to broken water mains are also driving up costs. The water and wastewater budgets are set to be approved in June, Bailey said.
“We’re reactive,” Bailey said, referring to breaks and leaks in the system that they are reacting to instead of actively working to prevent.
However, the department is working to change its reactive approach. When presenting the preliminary budget, there were no large capital improvements scheduled for next year.
The Selectboard approved an application for a loan to catalogue the town’s water infrastructure. The planning loan from the state is for up to $50,000, which can be forgiven so long as the work is done in a timely manner.
The loan will allow the municipality to catalog the water system’s infrastructure and document its condition. The hope is that this will help the water department better plan for repairs and maintenance, instead of fixing one leak or break at a time.
“We are working to start an asset management program that will help us prioritize where to spend people’s hard-earned money, and take the guess work out of this while providing the best water,” Bailey said.
Fire warden reappointed
The Selectboard on Monday also reappointed Ed Waite to a four-year term as fire warden. Over his years in the post, he has worked with the fire department to help educate people about getting burn permits and to inform people about what they can and cannot burn.
Hinesburg residents seek about 600 burn permits per year, Waite said.
“We haven’t had any trouble, knock on wood, with having to put out fires,” he added, saying people are generally respectful of the fire officers’ or his requests when it comes to putting out fires.