Hopes for getting the town's main water treatment plant back into service have hit another snag, which will delay its reboot -- and keep the town on a full water ban -- for another week or so.

FRANKLIN -- Hopes for getting the town's main water treatment plant back into service have hit another snag, which will delay its reboot -- and keep the town on a full water ban -- for another week or so.

After the long-awaited arrival and installation of specialized equipment in late September, it was expected that the plant -- shuttered for a little more than three months -- would be back up and running by now. But unexpected damages discovered during the testing process have caused a delay.

The plant at 10 Public Works Way was shut down, along with the town’s two largest and oldest wells associated with it, as the result of a fire in one of the tanks on July 6. This forced the town to call for a rarely implemented full ban on all outdoor watering, with the exception of watering vegetable and flower gardens by hand-held hose only.

Department of Public Works Director Brutus Cantoreggi said Water & Sewer Department staff have been working hard to restore the plant to service, so this latest delay comes with no small amount of frustration.

It was everyone's expectation that the plant would be back on the job around Oct. 4, "however, during this start up, it became apparent that the ultra-filtration filters, which were running intermittently since late July, had sustained damage and required additional repair," Cantoreggi indicated in a posting on the DPW's Facebook page.

Cantoreggi noted that all start up procedures and testing "has been under the direction of the filter manufacturer and the damage to the filters was not anticipated." Basically, there was some deterioration that occurred while the filtration system was not fully functioning as designed, so the damages were not directly related to the fire.

When custom-made equipment ordered to replace parts that were a direct result of the fire finally arrived at the end of September, Cantoreggi said crews worked throughout a weekend with an eye toward getting the plant back in operation as soon as possible.

Then, when the troubles with the filters became apparent, he said, crews "worked for five straight days in an attempt to repair the filters to a usable level" and get the plant running by the first week of this month.

"This is a very tedious process that requires placing a 'pin' in each filter that is damaged. There are a total of 40 filter membrane cartridges; in some cartridges there were over 600 holes," Cantoreggi noted.

But even with all the repairs crews attempted, he said, "water quality was not acceptable," as too much iron and manganese was making it through the filters.

Since the specialized filters take time to manufacture, and there is an overriding mission to deliver the best quality of water, the DPW had to make the decision to keep the treatment plant shuttered a little longer. Initially Cantoreggi expected it could be another three weeks before new filters would arrive, but the manufacturer is expediting the order and it is hoped the new filters will be delivered sooner.

The delay comes as a disappointment after all the thorough work that went into undertaking a full cleaning and damage assessment at the plant "to determine which equipment had to be replaced or repaired," noted Cantoreggi.

"Analysis was done to ensure all new components would meet or exceed new standards. New technology was evaluated and installed to improve control, lower operating costs and increase efficiency where allowed," he said, describing the summer-long effort. "All repairs were evaluated to determine which tasks would be best completed in house or outsourced to contractors in order to quickly repair the system and maximize cost savings. Much of this work has been completed on weekends by our dedicated staff."

Final replacement parts that were directly damaged by the fire, including the tank heater that caused the fire, had to be custom built, and when they arrived, "crews worked quickly to install the parts so that the plant could be fully started up and 'test run' for a complete evaluation."

The July fire that precipitated closure of the plant and the top two wells occurred inside the so-called CIP tank at the facility. The purpose of the fiberglass tank is to store citric acid, used for maintenance of filters and not for the treatment of water. When the substance does get used, it needs to be heated up.In late July, Cantoreggi reported that the fire appeared to have been the result of a hardware failure in the main control panel, likely caused by a lightning strike. Because of this failure, the immersion heater in the tank turned on unexpectedly, and since the tank was empty at the time, the extreme heat caused the tank to catch on fire.

Cantoreggi previously reported that the department was able to get the tank repaired rather than replaced, “saving a significant amount of time, money and effort versus replacing the tank completely.”

Now, residents are reminded that with this latest, unanticipated delay comes a continuation of the full water ban.

"We truly appreciate everyone’s patience, understanding, and continued commitment to water conservation," he noted in his update posted on Facebook. "Please understand, we do not recommend a water ban lightly. We need to ensure that there is enough water for drinking and sanitary needs, as well as to maintain proper storage levels for fire suppression."

If there is one silver lining, he said, it's that fall has arrived, bringing with it cooler weather and a lower demand for water.

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