By Rachel Goff

At Town Meeting in March, taxpayers authorized the Warren Select Board to apply for a loan not to exceed $259,000 to install a new municipal water system. Earlier this month, however, the town learned the water system could cost much less than it had anticipated.

Last week, representatives from the Warren Select Board and engineer Mark Bannon met with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to go over plans for the water system, which will serve the fire station, the municipal building, the town hall and Warren United Church.

The long and short of it was they didn’t like the way the engineer wasn’t following their rules,” select board chair Andy Cunningham said of the ANR at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, May 12, but by the end of talks the town and the agency had sorted things out.

Ultimately, the ANR said that some aspects of the water system that it had originally required were no longer necessary, Cunningham said, and now he estimates the project could cost under $100,000.

It had sounded like it would be much more at one point,” Cunningham said of the water system, explaining that the state’s rules for systems serving multiple buildings are strict and so the town asked for authorization to apply for a $259,000 loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to ensure it had enough money.

Warren took steps to replace its municipal water system last year, after town-owned buildings ran out of water on two separate occasions. “We have a very substandard system that’s also somewhat dangerous,” Cunningham said back in February, explaining that its water has not been potable for over 10 years.

The 1,000-gallon tank for the spring-fed cistern, which is located beneath the municipal building parking lot, contains high levels of organic contaminants and has tested positive for coliform. Per state law, signs on all of the faucets in the buildings served by the current system warn the public not to drink from them and the buildings rely on bottled water for consumption.

In addition to being contaminated, the spring-fed cistern also does not produce enough water. Last year, the tank ran dry during the summer and again during the fall. One time, it happened on a weekend when the municipal buildings were not open but Warren United Church was and “It was kind of an emergency,” town administrator Cindi Hartshorn-Jones said in February. If the tank runs out of water when the municipal buildings are open, per state law they are required to close.

As a solution to the current system, Warren has selected a strip of town-owned land across the street from the municipal building on which to drill a new well. Per state law, all wells have to be a certain number of feet away from a cemetery and the town’s burial ground is located directly adjacent to the municipal building.