September 19, 2017

Riverdale Water wants to provide Northbridge's water

Riverdale Water Co. Vice President Andrew Knott.

The Riverdale Water Co., a privately-owned supplier of water, is again angling to sell water to the Town of Northbridge after the town's supplier, Whitinsville Water Company, proposed a 25-percent rate increase. RWC, a subsidiary of Northbridge manufacturer Riverdale Mills, originally proposed to partner with WWC to supply water to the town in 2012, but that proposal ultimately wasn't successful. Vice President Andrew Knott sat down to answer some questions on the issue.

When did Riverdale begin selling water?

Riverdale Water Co., was founded in 2003 by James Knott, Sr., owner of Riverdale Mills Corp., one of the largest employers in Northbridge. RWC had its origin in 2000 with the purchase of 47 acres of land from Blackstone River Realty Corp. RWC has developed, permitted, financed and constructed a state-of- the-art, $1.1-million pumping station to source new drinking water at no capital cost to the Town of Northbridge.

The human necessity of clean drinking water makes the availability of a nearby, certified, clean secondary water source paramount to all other considerations, such that including it in WWC's plans may make both WWC and the residents of the Town of Northbridge more secure. RWC's water source currently requires no treatment to meet drinking water standards; hence its usage as a secondary source should also reduce WWC's costs of operating its current and projected treatment systems. By including water purchased wholesale from RWC in WWC's business plan, WWC can simultaneously reduce water supply costs for the Town of Northbridge and assure availability of clean water for a significant portion of the residents irrespective of system concerns in the existing WWC supply.

This secondary wholesale supply purchase could, alternatively, reduce the retail rates for the water consumer and/or provide additional revenues through the sale of emergency water to neighboring communities. Where WWC is guaranteed by statute a certain fixed profit after reasonable expenses, cost reductions in water supply would seem beneficial for the half century ahead.

Members of the Northbridge community deserve to have a choice. Whitinsville Water Co.'s existing business plan has been based, for more than half a century, on sole-sourcing the Town of Northbridge. Competition delivers greater efficiency, lower prices, more innovation and better customer service. RWC believes the Town of Northbridge should implement best practices around system innovation and efficiency focused strategies.

Who are the company's current water customers?

Presently, RWC provides bulk water for swimming pools and power plant cooling systems.

From where is the water pumped?

A large parcel of land off Quaker Street, which was acquired in Northbridge in 2003.

What are the benefits of a privately-owned water company rather than the municipality taking ownership?

Private ownership of water utilities has been growing for several years; it's more common than people realize. The private production of water and sewage services is often advantageous for consumers and taxpayers. Under many privatization agreements, a water company becomes the producer -- being responsible for infrastructure upgrades, repairs and daily water production -- while the municipality remains the provider and ultimate owner of the infrastructure.

Why does the company want to sell water to Northbridge?

Northbridge's current water supply must undergo costly pre-treatment prior to meeting approval for human consumption. RWCs pristine water supply is a deep well source, a sub-surface aquifer protected by a thick layer of silt and clay and 90-124 feet of earth, ensuring no contaminated surface water will threaten RWC's supply. The water is pristine, great tasting and free of problematic and harmful elements.

The company proposed the idea in 2012. What has happened since?

At this juncture, RWC has a source approval permit and a water management act permit to pump 0.76 million gallons per day out to February 2033, and RWC has put into place many of the state requirements including the business plan, the lead and copper sampling plan, Zone 1, Zone II, well-head protection, etc. What we do not have is the approval from the state Department of Public Utilities as WWC has contested our proposal to provide water.

This interview was conducted and edited by WBJ Staff Writer Zachary Comeau.


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