The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection granted Tolland a new diversion permit in May, increasing its ability to draw water for the Tolland Water Commission system by 205,000 gallons a day and ending seven years of discussion with the state over the permit.
"We came up with a workable permit," said Tolland Water Commission Vice-Chair Richard Symonds, who said that the volunteer water commission initially asked for a diversion permit change back in 2005.
Under the previous permit, Symonds said that the commission was allowed to draw a total of 220,000 gallons of water a day from its two wells. However, he said that an increase is necessary to serve new customers on the system, as well as to interconnect the northern and southern halves of the commission's water system.
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Currently, Symonds said, the northern Tolland customers are being served with water from the Connecticut Water Company, at an increased cost. The new permit, which allows a combined total daily draw of 425,000 gallons of water, is crucial for the eventual connection of the two systems, which will make the purchase of outside water unnecessary.
In order to receive the essential increase, Tolland Water Commission Chairperson Eugene Koss said that the commission had to complete approximately $300,000 in required environmental testing, checking that wetlands, fisheries, etc. would not be harmed by an increase.
"It cost well over $300,000 to obtain a permit for a 500 customer system. For us, that seems excessive," he said, adding that a lower level or cost of testing may have been more reasonable. The test results showed that a small area of wetlands around the wells were moderately impacted after water was pumped at a rate almost double the maximum now allowed.
"Think of the assets that could have been put in the ground," Koss said. Portions of the TWC system infrastructure have not been replaced since they were created in the 1980s, although he said that the system is still in relatively good shape.
Symonds and Koss also added that the water commission employs an environmentally friendly business model; customers pay their bills on a tiered system in which those who use more water, pay at a higher rate.
While the process has been drawn out, the new diversion permit will not expire until 2027, which Symonds and Koss say will provide for the water system's customers unless there is massive development in town.
Symonds and Koss thanked Town Manager Steven Werbner and State Rep. Bryan Hurlburt (D) for their help in moving the permit discussion along.
The Tolland Water Commission also recently ; rates were raised 15 percent in order to improve the financial health of the utility and to work towards replacing and improving water system infrastructure.