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SWSC’s Water Treatment Plant Featured on Connecting Point

WGBY’s Connecting Point recently visited our West Parish Filters Water Treatment Plant in Westfield to learn how drinking water is treated. The past, present, and future of drinking water treatment is all visible at West Parish Filters, which was originally constructed in 1909 and received its last significant modernization in 1974. WGBY’s Brian Sullivan also got to take a look at the new “pilot plant,” which is testing out new treatment processes to be constructed at the plant in the near future. The piece highlights the many different steps involved in the treatment of safe drinking water for our customers, and what the Commission is doing update drinking water treatment for the 21st century.


State’s First Online Water Treatment Operator Course Offered by STCC, SWSC, MWWA

The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission has partnered with Springfield Technical Community College and the Massachusetts Water Works Association to develop the state’s first online water treatment operator course.

The course, which starts on September 9, 2019, provides the training necessary for students to complete the state Board of Certification exam.

SWSC contributed funding to help launch the online course in order to provide broader access to the training statewide. There is high demand for new water treatment operators and other water professionals throughout the water industry, including at the Commission. Students enrolled at a community college in Massachusetts can take the online course for free, and the course is also open for a fee to anyone already in or completely new to the water industry.

See the article in MassLive

Preventing Lead Contamination – WGBY Connecting Point

How SWSC monitors for and reduces the potential for lead contamination was discussed on the July 18, 2019 episode of WGBY’s Connecting Point.

Lead is very seldom found in any drinking water as it leaves a treatment plant. Instead, lead most frequently enters drinking water supplies through plumbing and fixtures that may have lead in them. Lead is typically more common in the plumbing of older homes and buildings, but lead was not completely banned from plumbing until the late 1980s, and even afterwards was still present in some solder and fixtures. Preventing the leaching of lead into drinking water is known as “corrosion control.” Corrosion control is the addition of treatment chemicals (usually phosphate) that prevents lead from leaching from pipes and fixtures into the water that flows through them.

The Commission goes above and beyond to prevent lead contamination in the distribution system. First, it maintains a corrosion control program in compliance with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) regulations. This includes testing a sample set of homes in accordance with the federal Lead and Copper Rule on a three-year cycle. But the Commission also samples water leaving the treatment plant daily for adequate levels of corrosion control, and samples multiple times a week throughout the city as well. The Commission has also assisted Springfield Public Schools in their sampling of school fixtures.

In addition, all known lead service lines (which connect a building to the water main in the street) were proactively removed and replaced in the 1990s. For more information on lead and drinking water, click here.

Commission Updates Rules & Regulations, Rates for FY2020

On July 1, 2019, changes to the Commission’s Rules and Regulations, including rates, took effect. These were made following a public hearing on June 5, 2019 and a vote by the Board of Commissioners on June 20, 2019.

FY2020 runs from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.

The Rules and Regulations govern the policies and practices of the Commission. Rates and fees are found in Chapter 5 (page 148).

Executive Director Josh Schimmel Discusses Water Quality on Connecting Point

SWSC Executive Director Josh Schimmel and UMass Prof. David Reckhow discussed the recent public notification about water quality with WGBY’s Connecting Point on February 12.  Mr. Schimmel discussed the environmental cause behind the recent elevation of haloacetic acids (HAA5), and what the Commission is doing to address it. Dr. David Reckhow, a national expert on HAA5, explained the science behind HAA5 regulations.

Watch it here (Interview starts at the :26 mark.)

Peter Thayer Named Distinguished Water Operator of the Year

The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission is proud to announce that Mr. Peter Thayer, a Water Operator based at the Commission’s West Parish Filters Water Treatment Facility in Westfield, was named Distinguished Water Operator of the Year by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The award was presented as part of DEP’s 2018 Public Water Systems Award Program held on May 8 at the Massachusetts Statehouse. Water operators are responsible for the safe and efficient operation of drinking water treatment facilities such as West Parish Filters, which provides filtration and disinfection of the drinking water delivered to Commission customers. Mr. Thayer was commended for his innovative approach to problem-solving, his excellence in meeting state and federal drinking water regulations, as well as his seasoned insight into project design and review at the treatment facility, which produces approximately 30 million gallons/day of high-quality drinking water for 250,000 customers in the lower Pioneer Valley.

Mr. Thayer has worked with the Commission as an operator since 2014.

The Public Water Systems Award Program event held on May 8 was hosted by Rep. Anne Gobi and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, and speakers included EPA Region 1 Administrator Alexandra Dunn and MassDEP Commissioner Marty Suuberg.

Click here to view the press release

Above:  MassDEP Drinking Water Program Director Yvette DePeiza (left) and MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg (right) present Peter Thayer (center) with the Distinguished Operator of the Year Award at the Massachusetts Statehouse on May 8, 2018.

SWSC Awarded $50M Low-Interest Loan for Pump Station Project

The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission was awarded a $50 million low-interest loan from the Massachusetts State Revolving Fund (SRF) for the York Street Pump Station and Connecticut River Crossing Project. The project will build a new 62 million gallons/day (MGD) pump station; two new sewer lines under the Connecticut River; and will upgrade the existing influent structure at the Springfield Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility on Bondi’s Island to receive the new sewer lines.

The $85 million project is a cornerstone of the Commission’s Integrated Wastewater Plan, and stretches project dollars by addressing multiple issues at once. The issues addressed in this project include:

  • Regulatory Compliance and Environmental Stewardship:  The new pump station will add 30 MGD of pumping capacity, reducing the amount of combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges into the Connnecticut River by sending that additional amount to the wastewater treatment plant.
  • Renewal of Aging Infrastructure:  The new pump station will replace and enhance the main function of an aging pump station, while the existing pump station will remain utilized for flood control purposes.
  • System Resiliency and Redundancy:  The new sewer lines under the Connecticut River will add redundancy to the existing 85-year-old lines, allowing for the isolation of key infrastructure in the event of a failure and to enable future maintenance and rehabilitation.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2019.

Click here to read the article

Click here to read the press release about the State Revolving Trust Fund awards

SWSC, Mayor Ask Region to Imagine a Day Without Water

SWSC joined with Mayor Sarno and regional business leaders at Cobble Mountain Reservoir to Imagine a Day Without Water.

The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission, Mayor Domenic Sarno, and industry and public safety leaders gathered at Cobble Mountain Reservoir in Granville on Thursday, October 12, to urge the Springfield region to “Imagine a Day Without Water,” as part of an annual national campaign to bring more attention and awareness to the critical need for investment in water infrastructure.

The event was held at Springfield’s main water supply in Granville, which was built in the early 1930s and supplies 35-45 million gallons of treated drinking water to 250,000 customers in the Springfield region every day. SWSC Executive Director Joshua Schimmel noted that of the over 1,000 miles of water, sewer, and transmission pipe in the system, approximately 44% is over 75 years old, and 25% of it is over a century in age. “It would take $600 million just to make all the necessary upgrades to our pipes, many of which are past the end of their useful life,” he said, noting that treatment plants, pump stations, and other associated infrastructure are also aging and in need of repair. Schimmel recognized the foresight of prior generations in building infrastructure like Cobble Mountain Reservoir that enabled Springfield to grow, and called on elected officials and the public to support the responsibility of utilities to protect that legacy through re-investment.

Mayor Domenic Sarno commended the work of SWSC and declared that “Springfield has the best water in the country.” The high quality, affordability, and overall reliability of the city’s water makes it easy to take for granted, he said, but renewed investment will be needed to support the city’s future development.  He called on elected officials at all levels of government to prioritize increased funding for water infrastructure.

Other speakers included Alex Dixon, General Manager of MGM Springfield, who noted that access to clean, reliable, and great-tasting water was so important to the casino project that it invested approximately $5 million in upgrading water infrastructure around the site. Chris Aberg, Environmental Supervisor for Eastman-Solutia, commented that his company uses approximately 18% of all water treated from Cobble Mountain every year to produce glass resins and protective films that are shipped all over the world. “As a business that operates continuously throughout the year and employs roughly 400 highly skilled people in Springfield, we cannot afford to have one day without water,” Aberg said. Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant described the crisis that would ensue if firefighters could not depend on the availability or pressure required to fight fires. “At Springfield Fire Department we are constantly maintaining and updating our equipment so that we can save as many lives and as much property as possible,” he said. “Since water is a critical tool in any firefighter’s arsenal, why should we treat our water infrastructure any differently?”

Students from a robotics club at the Zanetti Montessori School in Springfield also provided remarks on what a day without water would mean to them, including an inability to brush their teeth or shower – but also a break from washing the dishes. The students are currently developing projects related to water conservation.

Imagine a Day Without Water is a national awareness event coordinated by the Value of Water Campaign. For more information visit: For information on SWSC, visit:


SWSC Hosts State Legislative Members

The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission (SWSC), along with top leadership from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), hosted members of the Springfield region’s state legislative delegation for the first time on Monday to discuss challenges facing the regional water and wastewater system. Impending issues related to an aging workforce and infrastructure; state vs. federal permitting authority; and funding to meet new environmental regulations were central points of the meeting, which was held in the c. 1974 wastewater treatment facility on Bondi’s Island in Agawam.

Rep. Brian Ashe, Rep. Angelo Puppolo, Rep. Jose Tosado, Rep. Nicholas Boldyga, and staff of Sen. Jim Welch were in attendance. SWSC Chairwoman Vanessa Otero and Executive Director Joshua Schimmel emphasized the importance of establishing a working relationship with elected officials at a time when there are expanding environmental, regulatory, health and safety, and financial challenges facing the water and wastewater sector. Otero noted in particular that much of the Commission’s workforce was nearing retirement age. After a large national effort in the 1970s to train and recruit workers for jobs in the water sector was not followed up in subsequent decades, the Commission finds itself challenged to fill upcoming retirements. The Commission is currently working with Springfield Technical Community College to revive a training and certification program for new water and wastewater operators. “Once again it is time to focus on training the next generation,” Otero said, asking lawmakers to find ways to partner with the Commission to cultivate workers for jobs that offer “good pay, security, and a fulfilling career.”

The age of Springfield’s infrastructure was also a prominent focus of discussion. Recalling recent trips to the White House to participate in infrastructure planning summits, Schimmel noted that transportation issues dominated national-level conversations, despite a $3.5 trillion need to update water and wastewater infrastructure in the country, and a $2.4 billion need in Massachusetts alone. Of the Commission’s approximately 1,000 miles of water, sewer, and transmission pipe, 44% is over 75 years old. “This is not a partisan issue,” Schimmel said. “The simple fact is that much of Springfield’s water infrastructure is a century old, and not addressing that soon will have major implications on the region’s economy going forward. Even more so than transportation, without reliable water and wastewater service, there is no development.” Schimmel requested that lawmakers consider providing more water infrastructure funding in Massachusetts.

Increasing environmental regulations stand to compete for funds that are needed to upgrade infrastructure, with federal regulations often not factoring in local environmental or economic conditions. MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg spoke about pending legislation to assume control of the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, which directs much water and wastewater treatment facility operations. Currently, Massachusetts is one of only four remaining states where the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers the NPDES program. Gov. Charlie Baker introduced legislation in the spring (H.B. 2777) to allow MassDEP to apply for NPDES delegation. “MassDEP is confident in its ability to administer this important water quality program,” said Commissioner Suuberg. “Administering this program will help ensure that the Commonwealth and its communities are taking a big-picture approach to directing resources towards the greatest water quality improvement, and working effectively with cities, towns and other stakeholders.”


Executive Director Joshua Schimmel Attends Second White House Infrastructure Summit

In June, Springfield Water and Sewer Commission Executive Director Joshua Schimmel attended a bi-partisan White House summit focused on infrastructure issues. Schimmel was invited along with Springfield DPW Director Chris Cignoli and a bi-partisan group of governors, mayors, and other officials to discuss ways the federal government can assist with improving the nation’s infrastructure at the state and local levels. Schimmel identified placing time limits on permit review periods as an achievable way to reduce the time and costs associated with infrastructure construction projects.

In August, Schimmel and Cignoli were again invited to the White House to provide feedback on the administration’s planned approach to stimulating infrastructure investment.

Click here to read more about the June summit on

Click here to read about the August visit on