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Supply chain issues mean longer wait times, higher prices for water treatment tools in some N.H. communities

Some New Hampshire communities are experiencing longer wait times and higher prices for chemicals and equipment to ensure safe drinking water and treat wastewater, as supply chain disruptions create challenges across the nation.

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Jason Randall, superintendent of water and wastewater at the Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District, said he has seen delays or higher prices for a variety of equipment — from a computer chip for an emergency generator to nitrile gloves. The gloves are needed to protect people working with wastewater from chemicals and sewage. But they’ve gone from about $5 to about $35 per box, he said.

The delays and cost make adequate budgeting more difficult, Randall said.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has heard about concerns in various communities, though the issue is more pressing in other parts of the country, said Brandon Kernen, administrator of drinking water and groundwater with DES.

Two communities are worried about running out of the chemicals needed to add fluoride to their water, and longer lead times on filtering equipment have led to uncertainty for other water treatment operators, he said. The delays could make timelines for compliance with newer state regulations around PFAS and arsenic uncertain, according to Kernen.

“These water treatment operators, professionals with long-term relationships with these vendors, can’t get any certainty in when the products will be here because the vendors can’t get that information from suppliers,” Kernen said.

Systems are getting by right now by using mutual aid, finding other vendors, and being prepared to use alternative chemicals, Kernen said.

Merrimack Village District Water Works, which manages wells contaminated with PFAS, is still working to implement PFAS treatment in some wells.

Ron Miner, superintendent at the district, said that they’re not aware of any supply chain issues that would complicate their efforts at the moment, but that some issues may arise in the future. The district has worked to expedite purchasing for required equipment to alleviate any issues, he said.

Rick Meleski, water and wastewater superintendent for the town of Winchester, says there have recently been longer wait times for some of the chemicals he needs. The price of chlorine has gone up, and getting the pipes they need to make improvements in water infrastructure has been a challenge, he said.

“Basically we’re just in kind of a reaction mode. If something goes wrong we repair it, instead of being proactive and making capital improvements and replacing these water mains,” he said.

Supply chain challenges haven’t caused any operational impairments for Pennichuck Corporation customers, said Larry Goodhue, CEO and CFO of the company, which provides water to communities in Southern New Hampshire. But the issues may lead to higher water rates and delays for capital projects, he said.

“The biggest concerns are us being able to continually meet our obligations to our customers in providing clean, safe drinking water on a consistent basis,” Goodhue said.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.

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