More water mains may soon be replaced in Malden.
At its April 23 meeting, City Strategic Planning Analyst Ron Hogan presented a plan to the Malden City Council to replace the water mains under 27 roadways throughout the city in the next five years. The presentation was made in anticipation of a bonding request that Mayor Gary Christenson is expected to send to the council in the coming weeks. The total cost for the work is estimated at $15,259,000, and will require the council’s authorization to bond against several funding sources, which are proposed to include $6.6 million in a state bond over 10 years at 0 percent interest, $6.3 million from water and sewer reserves and $2.3 million in state-issued Chapter 90 funds.
As Hogan explained, more than 75 percent of the approximately 126 miles of water mains in Malden are cast iron, ranging from under 50 years old to over 100 years old. While these pipes were the standard for a long period of time, they come with a major flaw; over time they corrode, building up material on the inside of the pipes. This causes a number of different problems, including insufficient flow for fire hydrants, increased chances of leaks and, at extremes, causing an increased build up for bacteria, leading to unsafe drinking water.
The proposal targets 13,165 feet of water mains under 27 streets, all of which cast iron and the vast majority of which are over 100 years old. Of those streets, 12 are in Ward 3, five are in Ward 6, four are in Ward 2, and Wards 5, 7 and 8 will have two streets of mains replaced each. There is currently no work planned in Wards 1 and 4.
According to Stephen O’Neil, an outside engineer whom the city contracts for such work, most of the streets were previously identified as warranting water main replacement in earlier efforts. Others were chosen because they had previous issues reported, such as low water pressure.
The earlier efforts to which O’Neil referred were largely done by CDM Smith, who ran a prior water main replacement program. Though the goal of that earlier program was the same, the project ran drastically over schedule and over budget, forcing the council to eventually halt all water main replacement work until previously disturbed streets were repaired and, ultimately, parting ways with CDM Smith. As Councilor Paul Condon recounted, the roadwork on a street in his ward that had its water main replaced in 2012 was not finished until this past year. Though that was just one example, there are countless others throughout the city. In order to combat that, Hogan, O’Neil and City Engineer Yem Lip built into their budget estimate an additional 20 percent in soft costs and 15 percent for contingency in the design work and construction. This triumvirate and their budgeting helped curb overages previously when the council ceased water main work and focused solely on roadwork, and at least one council expects a smoother outcome this go-around.“I think we’ll be a lot more successful this time,” said Condon. Once the council officially receives a bonding request from the mayor, the matter is expected to be taken up by the Finance Committee.