"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Got Salt?

Apparently there is plenty of it at the Highway Garage. I'm not talking about the road salt, but far below the ground in the wells. As legend has it, ( no one really knows for sure) lighting hit a well head some time ago and ever since the salt levels in the water supply have been exceedingly high. Be that as it may, a recent water test came back with a sodium level of 1,421 milligrams per liter ( EPA limit is 250) and a chloride level of 2,100 milligrams per liter ( EPA limit is 250).
Seawater salinity   by comparison is about 35,000 milligrams per liter. Not exactly the Atlantic ocean  here in Moultonboro, but not ideal for equipment washing or drinking. Most plants can tolerate only about 200-800 milligrams per liter of sodium in irrigation for example. At the levels indicated for the Highway Garage it is certainly noticeable when washing and drinking and can damage plumbing and fixtures and equipment. According to the World Health Organization,water will become increasingly undrinkable in the 1000-2000 mg/L salinity range.
According to the NH DES "Some sodium is found in all natural water supplies, but more so in areas where seawater and road salt seep into the ground. Sodium has no set hazard level, but those individuals on a low sodium diet should take into account the amount of sodium in their water when determining overall sodium intake.Although chloride is not considered a health hazard, the standard has been set because of the level at which the average person notices a salty taste. Chloride is associated with infiltration of road salt, fertilizer, backwash from a water softener and even seawater. "
The solution being proposed is for a reverse osmosis system that will include four 300 gallon tanks with a 1000 gallon per day reverse osmosis system, a UV light, acid neutralizer, water softener and a constant pressure booster pump. It will provide 500-750 gallons per day due to water temperature. 
The estimated cost is approximately $17,600 with an annual maintenance cost of $1,600. Reverse osmosis however, produces a "reject brine"  that must be disposed of. The vendor is suggesting a dry well be dug outside so that the salty groundwater and brine could evaporate.How large a pond and any environmental impact were not indicated.
The NH DES tells us that reverse osmosis is not the most efficient in NH due to the typically cold temperature of the groundwater which make the water "sticky": "In New Hampshire, treatment efficiency based on the volume of water produced is poor, typically in the range of 20 to 30 percent. This is due to the typically cool temperatures of the state’s groundwater. For example, assuming the volumetric efficiency of an RO treatment device was 25 percent, if 10 gallons of raw water is fed into the device daily, only 2.5 gallons of water will migrate through the membrane to become treated pure water.The contaminants and the remaining 7.5 gallons of water will become reject water and will be discharged to a sewer, leach field, or drywell. Typical New Hampshire groundwater temperature is 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is fairly constant year round. RO devices are often rated at an operational temperature of 77 F at 60 pounds per square inch (psi) applied pressure. The technical condition causing this low rate of production is the viscosity (stickiness) of the water when cold."
What are the options? Other than drilling a new well without any guarantee that the water quality will be satisfactory, there are not many. Town Engineer Ray Korber advised the BoS that the cost to pipe and pump water from the Playground Drive facility which may have better water quality is too costly. The main issue is the ability to wash the highway vehicles with water that is not  potentially corrosive. 
How the salt got there in the first place has not been definitively answered. According to the NH DES, well water originates as rain and snow that then filters into the ground. As it soaks through the soil, the water can dissolve materials that are present on or in the ground, becoming contaminated.
"Road salt melts snow, but it contaminates groundwater and damages habitats" is the title of an article in the Washington Post that states that we toss 13 times more salt on our roads in the winter than is used by the entire food processing industry. "The stuff doesn't just disappear when the snow and ice melts: It washes away into lakes and streams or seeps into groundwater supplies. Researchers in Minnesota recently found that, in the Twin Cities area, 70 percent of the salt applied to roads stays within the region's watershed. Once it gets there, the contamination is difficult and expensive to remove. " On the positive side, it is good to know that the Highway Dept. is using new techniques and products to minimize the amount of road salt used.
Of course the answer may be the most obvious one: tons of road salt stored on the ground for many years. "The stuff doesn't just disappear."
The BoS may make a decision on whether to include this in the 2015 capital budget next Friday.




19 comments:

ABC fan said...

Continue to wash vehicles at Playground Drive near the ice rink. It works. I have seen it done there. That's what poor towns do. Get creative. Stop whining.or at the former lions club. We own that monster. Surely we can put a pole barn up there if absolutely necessary, but I doubt it.

No Rush..Do It Right said...

This is an age old problem, a man made problem, seen in most municipalities around the Hiway salt storage area. That salt is bulk - loose granular, 50 ton...200 ton...out in the rain. That's the way it was for all towns.....no body's fault, we just did not know better. Several years ago, towns built salt storage sheds....we did, but the damage was done with salt in groundwater, and aquifers, and is very difficult to remediate. Giving the BOS two weeks to learn of all the ramifications of this decission is a great dis-service to us all. The area is an aquifer/swamp, feeding lake Winni Salmon Meadow cove, and not the ideal spot for a truck wash, or feeding filter backwash brine back into the groundwater. We own 2 contiguous properties, the playground, and the Hiway barn, and both need acceptable water. Time for looking at the whole picture, with a groundwater consultant who works in this narrow area. A piecemeal bandaid may well increase the problem.

What's CIPC Say ? said...

Can't find any reference to this in the CIPC budget review. How did this miss their review. They have a diverse committee with many disciplines represented, and need to weigh in on this. The Town Administrator may not wish to listen to them, but these citizens are doing a great job, looking at the big picture.

Anonymous said...

The plot thickens. If they wash trucks at the ice rink, they would be using the new 20,000 gallon cistern done with leftover $ $ from the soccer field repair. Where does that water come from? Is it trucked in, or from a shallow well near Mud Pond? That pond is directly down gradient from the Highway salt storage, and may also have salt issues.
Two stories there, Hiway and town engineer say water is O K. Rec, who wants toilets at the playground says the water is not fit for flushing toilets. With all the divergent opinions, time to step back and get an INDEPENDENT groundwater remediation consultant.

Ironic a Cheap Wrong Answer said...

Hey BOS, ask the planning board. They just turned a building permit because the applicant could not prove that every drop of rain that fell on his property would not stay on his property.
And you are thinking of buying a device that works by injecting a concentrated salt brine filter backwash back into the groundwater? We do not need to be back in court on this one too. Let's get an expert to find a win win solution.

Bad Idea said...

Wait until the EPA or DES gets wind of this.......

Use Pro's Please said...

The vendor, and our town decission makers are way over their heads. A quote from this article:

The vendor is suggesting a dry well be dug outside so that the salty groundwater and brine could evaporate.How large a pond and any environmental impact were not indicated.
The salt content can never evaporate. It stays in solution in our water table. Over time, truck washing runoff and RO water filter back flush will increase the salt pollution of the area.
Note no operating costs included..you need to run pumps...$ $ $. The RO system will increase water use at the Hiway Garage by a factor of 3, as it takes 10 gallons of well water to yield 2 1/2 gallons. Pump the wells dry, and we will be billed for well drilling, in an area where deep wells provide a very small yield. You may hurt the yield of private deep wells in the area, and percolate a salt content into the shallow wells.
So many factors unknown, including NH D E S rules, it is time for professional advice on this problem.

Think About it said...

Ironic is right. Do you think if Joe Taxpayer asked to do the same operation he'd get approval?

Con Com Ignored? said...

This is the heart of the challenge for the Conservation Commisson, and there is no indication in their minutes that they have been consulted. Hope they speak up with advice on proper protocall on how to learn all the ramifications of pumping more salt brine into the aquifer/swamp that drains into Lake Winni...they want our support, we need their support here.

Well, Fix It said...

When town releases groundwater test results voluntarily, someone is out to prove something. So far the test data released just indicates a deep well with a faulty seal where the well pipe enters bedrock. It is allowing contaminated surface water to enter the deep well. Anyone ask: well depth? Well Diameter? Well flow? Well Age? Static water level? Bed rock depth? Length of well pipe installed? Pump Depth? Get those facts, and you can evaluate if the well is worth re-sealing. This is known technology relatively not expensive, and if we have a valid well to begin with, a permanent repair.

Josh Bartlett said...

A couple of corrections/clarifications:

#1. From the CIPC Report Final 2015 -2020 page 17; (public document available on Town Website):

"PRIORITY CODE 4: - UNPROGRAMMED – NOT ENOUGH INFO PROVIDED TO EVALUATE NEED
#5 – Highway Garage water system: (Unprogrammed – not enough information to evaluate need) $25,000
It is thought by the Members that the need has not been clearly identified, as the stated need seems to be primarily for “wash down” of equipment with low chloride water during the winter months and to provide potable water. There was sentiment that with the large cistern now installed for irrigation purposes at the nearby soccer field, perhaps investigation of that water source would be prudent."

#2. It was the Zoning Board that ruled on Zaremba: (from the town Websit; Dated 16 July 2014:

"BY A VOTE OF THREE (3) IN FAVOR, TWO (2) OPPOSED, AND NO (0) ABSTENTIONS,
THE BOARD DENIED THE VARIANCE REQUEST FOR ZAREMBA PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT, LLC, 929 WHITTIER HIGHWAY (TAX MAP 52-LOT 18) TO OBTAIN
RELIEF FROM THE REQUIREMENT IN MZO ARTICLE XII.V (B) FOR POST-DEVELOPMENT STORM WATER RUNOFF VOLUME TO NOT EXCEED PRE-DEVELOPMENT LEVELS FOR A 50 YEAR STORM EVENT."

I hope this information is useful.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't they washing trucks up at the Life Safety building firetruck wash bay? Is it full of toys for winter storage, or not usable because it drains into the basement? As the floor settled 3 inches away from the walls, it may not be usable. That's going to be a big $$ repair. Do we get the whole story and make good decisions here? Time to review our technical expertise.
We have another prime example of " half baked " coming up withR O water.

Same-O Same-O said...

The 12 12 BOS workshop minutes are posted and contain more info on the sinking life safety building. We have asked our road agent to talk with our town engineer, and drill a few test bores to see what's going on down there. Once again, local talent ...with a proven track record...of buildings that come up short.
This shop local seems to be a control thing. The local's decisions caused this problem, let's get a pro to diagnose, and chart the course.

Anonymous said...

How can anyone propose a RO system without determining if it would be acceptable, if it would work and if it would not do more damage to the ecosystem? If we wash the corrosive materials off the vehicles, where does the corrosive material go? Why back into the ground to pollute more groundwater. You cant make this stuff up. How about once or twice a year you take a vehicle down to a commercial car wash and pay $20 to have it washed - assuming of course the commercial place is not contaminating the ground water too.

Bridge Is Burned. said...

The BOS has to approach this with the first goal being " do less harm to the ecosystem ". If that isn't their goal, citizens should invite the N H D E S and perhaps OSHA in to give them a primer on current green workplace rules. It is not in our best intrest when they think the rules do not apply to municipalities.
I'm dismayed, but we have seen enough years of the runaround, buttcover, ETC, that it is clearly time for outside professionals to provide complete facts and answers, and work at restoring our confidence, that we can do some things right.

Anonymous said...

K V Partners recommends the R O system? Are you sure we are getting good advice from the town's engineer?

Had Enough said...

The town engineer has sung any song the T A tells him to sing. That's why his credibility is shot, the build a sidewalk sessions were the final straw.
The rest of the problem is a T A who does not respect other people's professions. He freely sells his wishes, but does not have the knowlege to know when to ask for advice, or outside consultants. He will spend freely for consultants to sell his agenda, but areas where we need technical guidance he prefers to hold control. The BOS has to start assessing cost versus damage, and err on the side of caution.

Terence C. Jatko said...

"When town releases groundwater test results voluntarily, someone is out to prove something. So far the test data released just indicates a deep well with a faulty seal where the well pipe enters bedrock. It is allowing contaminated surface water to enter the deep well. Anyone ask: well depth? Well Diameter? Well flow? Well Age? Static water level? Bed rock depth? Length of well pipe installed? Pump Depth? Get those facts, and you can evaluate if the well is worth re-sealing. This is known technology relatively not expensive, and if we have a valid well to begin with, a permanent repair."

This seem like a common sense approach, particularly if the well was damaged after a lightning strike.It will probably never see the light of day.

Anonymous said...

As I read the comments I am wondering how dumping by the street sweepers and the catch basin cleaning company also affects the water quality of not only the aquifer but also of the pond. In my travels around town over the years I have seen the catch basin truck at the laundry mat and car wash then pulling out of the highway garage later that same day. Makes you wonder what else has been dumped over the years.