Water and Sewer Work Still Costing Taxpayers Millions

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

The EPA consent decree slapped on the city 10 years ago continues to cost millions of dollars and raise the ire of some public officials.

Monday night, councillors approved the borrowing of $11.815 Million dollars to continue work on the city water and sewer service. Of the millions approved, $3.5 Million is slated for 200-300 locations around the city to remove lead service pipes. This is more part of the water meter replacement program and less with the consent decree, but as City Engineer Nick Ryzstrom said it’s work that has to be done. Another $600,000 will go toward the detection of illicit connection and sump pump investigations. There will be $1.2 million going toward Phase 9 of the inflow and infiltration system. Another $4.7 million is going toward Phase 8 of the inflow and infiltration and $2 million will go toward illicit connections and sump pump removal program.

Regarding the lead pipe service work, Ward 3 Councillor Arthur Guinasso questioned why it cost $10,000 per house. Ryzstrom said a portion goes to oversight of the project.

Ward 6 Councillor Charles Patch has been pushing for over a year to have an audit done of the work the engineering firm CDM Smith has been doing on the consent decree. He’s served under three administrations and he has never gotten his request.

“Every June we get figures thrown at us, we have questions and no answers,” said Patch, who wants to see a detail breakdown of where the money is going.

“Where’s the oversight, asked Councillor George Rotondo. “And why isn’t the DPW doing the work and what’s the cost of CDM?

“The DPW doesn’t have the bodies for oversight,” Restroom said.

“I’ve heard otherwise,” Rotondo said.

“We are dishing out millions in oversight,” Patch said.

Consent decree was issued on August 25, 2010 and forces the city to significantly reduce illegal discharges of raw sewage overflows into the environment from its wastewater collection system and separate storm sewers system. The estimated cost of the work is $50 million, according to the EPA. Ryzstrom said today the project is more like $100 million.

“The magnitude was not realized and its a much bigger problem than initially thought,” Ryzstrom said. “The neglect and deficiencies are extensive.”

So far, Ryzstrom said, 6-7,000 homes have already been investigated and had new meters installed and there are 12,000 structures in the city. The outstanding ones could face legal action if crew aren’t allowed to come in and do the work.

“The first step is to get the illegal flow out of the system,” Ryzstrom said, adding they will continue to do dye and smoke testing and continue to identify deficiencies in the system.

Patch was clearly not happy with the loan requests and Rotondo voted along with him.

“Fifty percent of the city has been done in seven construction years. Will it be done in a 10 year time period,” asked Patch. “We’re dishing out so much money. Why are we relying on one company –  CDM – whose had it for 10 years now?”

Ryzstrom said 10 to 15 percent of the work is oversight.

“I want to know if we’re over paying,” Patch said. “I can’t do this year after year. i want some real Revere DPW oversight. That’s my frustration.”

Patch offered up a motion to require the mayor to contact the State Auditor by Sept. 1 for an audit. Rotondo bumped up the time frame to July 1. The motion passed.

DPW employee Joe Maglione came to the meeting to share his thoughts. He said that even though the department is down a number of men that they are quite capable of doing some of the work needed. Ward 5 Councillor Powers said he wants to see specifics about the areas, streets and jobs being done, as well as how much money has been spent each year.

“I don’t feel completely comfortable,” Powers said.

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