Bristol hikes water rates by 8%

I’m nervous about the way things have been going, and I don’t want to keep ending up short.
— Selectman John “Peeker” Heffernan

BRISTOL — Average water customers in Bristol will see a modest increase on their bills in the coming year.
The Bristol selectboard at its June 8 meeting voted to increase the water budget by 8%, which translates for the average user into a rate hike of about $5.42 per quarter, or $21.68 per year.
Town Treasurer Jen Myers had initially proposed a 6.6% increase (about $4.07 per quarter), but several selectboard members expressed concerns about the aging system and the future cost of upgrades and repairs.
In the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the water system has exceeded its budget for supplies and contractor services — which cover repairs and upgrades — by a combined total of $23,485.
“I’m nervous about the way things have been going, and I don’t want to keep ending up short,” said selectboard member John “Peeker” Heffernan at the meeting, which was conducted via Zoom. “If we can get a little bit ahead and get some stuff we need taken care of down at the pumphouse, then so be it.”
Fellow selectboard member Joel Bouvier agreed.
“We can’t let the system go to hell,” he said.
According to the 2019 Bristol Town Report, several repairs to the water system were completed last year, including:
•  three leaks on the West Street service lines.
•  replacement of a hydrant and valve on West Street.
•  a leaking service line on East Street.
•  leak and replacement of a hydrant and valve on the corner of Taylor and Elm streets.
•  two leaking curb stops on Mountain Street.
Similar repairs have continued to be necessary. On June 6 water service in the Rocky Dale area of town was temporarily shut off so that a water main leak on Route 116/17, east of the Lord’s Prayer Rock, could be fixed.
At the same meeting, the selectboard also approved next year’s spending plan for the municipal wastewater system, which will remain level. The system serves 30 users — mostly downtown commercial enterprises.
In an additional bit of business the board formalized Myers’ suggestion that the “swimming pool fee” be renamed the “bulk water purchase fee,” and increased that fee to $75 for in-district customers and $100 for out-of-district customers.

Jill and Cyrus Marsano of Vermont Utility Management Services (VTUMS), which operates Bristol’s water and wastewater systems, also attended the meeting.
They reported that during the pandemic they have seen an increase in sanitizing wipes in the sewer system.
“People are using lots of them,” Jill Marsano said.
The problem is that, because most sanitizing wipes and even most “flushable” wipes do not degrade, they can cause pipe and other system blockages.
Jill Marsano cited a recent incident in one of the systems VTUMS manages, where sanitizing wipes created a blockage that led to a sewage backup in people’s basements.
“(Sanitizing wipes) are clogging up a lot of systems across the country,” she added, and suggested that the solution was a matter of educating the public.
More information about what materials should not be flushed is available at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation:
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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