The Blanding's turtle resides in isolated coves and weedy bays, and in shallow, marshy waters and ponds. Like any species on the federal Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants list, it poses a major obstacle for anyone seeking to share its space.
Such was West Groton Water Supply District General Manager George Newell's dilemma in 1999.
The district owns a single well field of 47 21/2-inch wells with an associated pump station, 19.3 miles of water main, and two water storage tanks with an 822,000-gallon capacity. Although the well field had never been out of service, Newell knew that relying on only one water source could be risky.
For starters, a water supply system should provide for average daily demand even when its largest source is out of service. With one source, the district couldn't do that.
What's more, with only one source, any type of contamination, however slight, affects the district's entire supply. When the well field pumps hard, the aggressive action stirs up higher levels of secondary contaminants like iron and manganese. With an industrial facility located near one end of the well field, the district had to be ready with a backup water source should any spills or similar problems occur.
In 2002, after three years of aggressive exploration, Newell found the ideal site for a new well. There was a small problem, however: It was located deep within the 500-acre Groton Memorial Town Forest, a state-designated “Area of Critical Environmental Concern” and home to five protected species: the Forcipate Emerald dragonfly; the Triangle Floater mussel; and the spotted, wood, and aforementioned Blanding's turtles.
Despite this sensitive location, the district received approval from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2004 to develop the new well source with a potential pumping rate of 1.45 mgd—more than eight times its average daily demand.HURDLES TO OVERCOME
While the water district had found liquid gold, developing it wasn't easy. A well-managed system, open communication, and consultants helped the district jump significant permitting hurdles:
Funding. To afford the $1.8 million project, the district applied for funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund through an arduous application process that involved several rounds of documentation, reporting, and stiff competition from other Massachusetts communities. The district secured nearly $1.5 million for construction of the final production well, a well house, more than 5,000 feet of water main, and a new building to house pump controls and the chemical feed systems.
Timeline: Approximately 24 months.