CUMBERLAND – Test drilling will begin later this summer at Franklin Farm’s east field, one of five sites and the primary parcel identified in an evaluation of town-owned properties that have the potential to provide a new source of municipal groundwater.
The Cumberland Water Department has contracted with Layne Christensen Company of Dracut, Mass. to drill test wells and conduct short term pumping tests in late August or early September when groundwater levels are expected to be at their lowest.
According to town water officials, the test wells will consist of between two and five sets of 2 ½-inch wells which will be drilled at different locations in the east field. Each set of test wells will be drilled two feet away from each other, one for the purpose of pumping water and one to monitor the ground water level while the other well is being pumped. Each set of test wells will undergo a four-hour pumping test from which water samples will be collected and sent to a laboratory for analysis. The pumping tests will also determine what the probable safe yield of water will be and whether that safe yield varies by location in the east field.
Water Department officials anticipate that the drilling of the test wells and the completion of the pumping tests will take approximately seven days.
Meanwhile, members of the Friends of the Franklin Farm Committee, which oversees the town-owned historic Franklin Farm, are slated to give a presentation relative to the project at the Town Council’s meeting Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 45 Broad St.
Recently added to the National Register of Historic Places, Franklin Farm encompasses over 65 acres of land and includes a mid-19th century Greek Revival-style farmhouse; an early-19th century timber-framed barn; a ca. 1903 dairy barn; and a 20th-century garage.
Used for many years as a dairy farm, the land and buildings now belong to the public, under the direction of the Historic Metcalf-Franklin Farm Preservation Association. Many town programs are run on the site, and the farm is home to a community garden and farm stand.
According to town officials, the property’s east field has the potential to supply the town with high quality water. In addition, they say, there will be minimal impact to the current operation of Franklin Farm during the initial stages of the project.
Right now, water to the town comes from the Sneech Pond surface water treatment plant, the Abbott Run and Manville well fields and purchased from the Pawtucket Water Supply Board. However, the town has trouble meeting peak demand periods during the summer months, which can be as high as 6 million gallons per day.
If the results of the short term pumping tests at Franklin Farm’s east field show that groundwater levels are inadequate to support a production well or the water sample results show water produced from a well would require a costly treatment process, the project will be terminated.
However, if the pumping and water sample test results prove there is an adequate groundwater supply of high quality water beneath the east field the project will proceed to the next stage, which is drilling an eight-inch test well, long-term pumping tests, additional water analysis and permitting with state regulatory agencies.
According to officials, the impact to Franklin Farm’s current operations in the east field would still be minimal during this stage.
Once all permit applications have been approved by the state, construction of a production well would then begin. The impact to Franklin Farm’s current operations in the east field would be higher during this phase of the project due to the longer period of time that construction activities would be taking place. Haying activities, however, could still take place during this phase excluding the immediate area where work was being done.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7