Rowe's Water Challenge

Fundraising goal met - thank you for all of your support!

Project update: The first and most critical goal, to connect Joffe House by the Brook and Fromson House to our main water system, has been complicated by the fact that the pipes that feed those buildings are on our neighbor’s land. We are working with our neighbor to come up with a solution.

In addition, the most direct route from the current water system to Fromson House is across land that didn’t belong to us. The owner agreed to transfer the deed to us for the fee of $5,000, most of which will be used to pay her legal fees. It would have cost us a good part of that fee to run lines around the property and this is property that makes sense for us to own, given it is located between the Fromson House and the Farmhouse.

There is an interesting piece of Rowe history that goes along with this purchase. The owner is well acquainted with the Center, as her ancestor, Preserved Smith, started the Unitarian Church and her grandfather gave his cottage, Bonnie Blink to the church in the early 1900s. She feels it is fitting that this piece of property becomes a part of the Camp as well.

We have received permission from the town to run the line under their right of way to the trails and under King’s Highway and the deed has been transferred. Jim Williams, our contractor, plans to begin the excavation right after Thanksgiving, providing the weather holds out. 

The second goal is the new well and storage facility to serve the entire campus. The main complication is that there are very few locations on our campus that have all of our septic systems outside of the DEP required zone 1 of the proposed well. We found a site that meets those requirements, and the DEP has approved the location. In addition we have consulted a wetlands consultant and have had a site evaluation with the town’s conservation commission. 

During our site visit with the conservation commission, Prue Berry, our Executive Director Emeritus, expressed concerns about the potential site and its former uses. While we are moving forward with the approval process for the site, we are also investigating the potential for alternative sites. This is a major project and taking some time in the initial phases makes sense to us, although it has slowed down the process. We thank you for your support which is making all of this work possible!

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We hear about the need for clean, potable water in developing nations. For many, the lack of clean water is life-threatening. Here at home, however, we take clean water as a given: We turn on the tap and water flows freely. But rural communities like ours often face challenges around clean-water issues and Rowe is facing one of those challenges now.

 As an organization that serves the public, our water system is classified as a public water system. As such, we have to have our water tested every month. Most of it is clean, fresh, and downright tasty. A number of people bring empty jugs with them every time they come to Rowe, so they can bring water back home. It’s that good.

 But over the years we have had numerous problems with one well, and that has drawn the attention of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The department has notified us that we need to find a permanent solution for that well and it wants us to upgrade our entire system.

 Most of the buildings on the grounds are supplied by the cistern, which gets fed by a well near the Rec Hall and a well near the Bath House in the cabin area. The Farmhouse and Orchard Guest House receive their water from that system. That water is fine.

 Fromson House and Joffe House by the Brook had separate wells when we bought them. Now both are connected to a single well that is not part of the water supply to the rest of the campus. That well is located over by the town hall.

 The Fromson House well has a long history of problems. Many years ago, it was contaminated by the town’s winter salt supply. The town drilled a new well for us but it had to be uphill from the contamination site, so they drilled it on their own land and ran the pipes under the pond, and at first all was well. But a few years ago that well tested positive for bacteria and we had to do some major work to it. Again, it worked fine for a while, but now that well is testing with contaminants again. Because that was the second detection in a period of six months, we were put under an Administrative Consent Order. What that meant was that if we had one more detection within the year, we would have to install some type of sanitizing system. That is where we are right now.

 The DEP has granted us an extension to pursue one of three solutions: Put a sanitizer on the well, put a sanitizer at each house, or abandon that well and move the water lines so that Fromson and Joffe House are supplied by the cistern, along with the rest of the campus.

 On further investigation, we found that the problem is not at the well but somewhere in the lines under the pond, and there is nothing to say that more problems won’t develop with those lines. So, we believe that the third solution is the best. However, fixing that problem doesn’t solve our water problems. Our whole system is out of compliance. And if we are going to begin to dig up and reroute water lines, it makes the most sense to solve the problem once and for all.

 We have already begun working with SVE Engineering in Greenfield to design a plan that would provide water to our whole campus and would meet all current DEP regulations. The estimate for the entire project is $125,000.

To complete the project we would need to:

·         Drill a new well or wells with sufficient capacity to serve the whole campus

·         Budget in all testing expenses the project requires, from start to finish

·         Build a new water storage tank to replace the cistern that is now in use

·         Lay water lines to the new system

The old cistern could be used for other purposes, like a fire-suppression system. If all goes well, we could have an entire new system by next year.

This is a big project and one that will cost more than we usually bring in for our end-of-year campaign. But it’s a challenge that we can meet together. We invite you to be a part of a permanent, clean-water solution for Rowe.

Click on the Donate button now, at the top of this page, to help build a new water system for Rowe. 

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