Cost Estimates For Water, Sewer Projects Drastically Reduced

by William F. Galvin
Water/Wastewater Superintendent Dan Pelletier. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO Water/Wastewater Superintendent Dan Pelletier. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO

HARWICH – In the last annual town meeting, voters appropriated $24 million for two projects relating to water main installation and a dry sewer main running along Route 28 on the west side of town. But new estimates for the projects have come in at less than half that amount.

Voters approved $17,500,000 for 2.4 miles of new water mains extending from South Street in Harwich Port to the Dennis town line. The new lines will replace undersized mains installed in the 1930s and 1940s deemed to be beyond their useful lives. In recent years those lines have experienced several major water main breaks requiring large distribution system shutdowns due to limited and aging gate valves.

The good news, according to Water/Wastewater Superintendent Dan Pelletier, is that the latest cost estimate for that installation project came in at $8,095,000. Town meeting also approved $6,500,000 for the dry sewer system main that would extend from the Herring River Bridge to the Dennis town line, and that cost estimate has been adjusted to $1,150,000.

The town is coordinating these projects with the state, which has planned major road work and resurfacing of Route 28 from the Herring River to the Dennis town line, starting in the fall of 2025.

Coordinating the water and sewer projects with MassDOT allows the town to save money by making the installations while the road is under construction and being resurfaced. Once the road is resurfaced, MassDOT will place a five-year moratorium on road cutting for such installations.

Pelletier said there are a couple of factors that have contributed to the reduced price tag. He said these projects were being developed as the country was coming out of the pandemic when supply chain issues were still prevalent.

“It was taking a year’s lead time to get materials a year and a half ago, but the market has stabilized. At the end of the day we have a more solid footing on cost effect and we have a more solid footing on costs from MassDOT,” said Pelletier.

Water/Wastewater Commission Chair Gary Carreiro said five years ago the commission placed $7.5 million in the town’s capital plan for these projects. He added when the commission received the initial cost estimates, members considered holding up on the projects, but couldn’t easily do so given the timing for the MassDOT reconstruction of Route 28.

“I’d argue we’re within reason from where we’ve been,” Carreiro said of the new cost estimates.

Speaking to cost reductions for the dry sewer main installation, Pelletier said, “when we had initially set out to design the project we were planning to do a gravity sewer line, but after getting into the investigatory work we switched to low-pressure sewers due to the high groundwater concerns, which have a much lower installation cost.”

While water main replacement from the Herring River Bridge to the Dennis town line will not occur until MassDOT begins working on Route 28 in the fall of 2025, Pelletier said his department is now submitting plans to the state for the installation of the water mains from the east side of the Herring River Bridge to South Street, and he expects that installation will begin in September.

The dry sewer main installation will require a pump house, likely to be located at 62 Route 28 adjacent to the West Harwich Baptist Church.

Pelletier said he remains optimistic Harwich will be working with the town of Dennis on treatment opportunities. Recharge locations will have to be resolved, he said, but there are benefits for both communities working together. Once the sewering of East Harwich is complete and Great Sand Lakes is connected, the town will need to provide treatment — whether it is partnering with Dennis or providing treatment in town.