“If this proposal were to gain legs, we really have to look at the details to find out what other ancillary effects peeling out the drinking water component would have on the other things we do here,” he says.
There’s also the issue of what to do with water treatment facilities made obsolete by the Peoples water treatment plant. O’Brien says sites such as the Aspinwall plant could be re-purposed into a riverfront park, and reservoirs could be turned into ponds or potential developments for affordable housing. But Pickering stresses that some details have become lost in the discussion. He was especially confused by reports that through the proposal, PWSA would no longer need its water storage tanks.
“I don’t see a way that a treatment plant would allow the system to no longer have storage through reservoirs or through drinking water tanks, because you have to pump water up the different elevations in order for neighborhoods to receive it,” says Pickering, “and that can’t be handled through a treatment plant.”
While O’Brien understands the concerns coming from PWSA and elected officials, he still believes in what his company is trying to sell.
“These are all coming from the folks in the trenches who have their heart and souls into fixing PWSA,” says O’Brien. “If you’ve ever been in that situation where your job is a major headache, it’s not appealing to listen to other people with potential scenarios that take you off course of what you’re focused on. We respect them and they’re actually a key part of this partnership. I’m sure they’re not looking for people with vision or exciting stories to tell. They literally are focused on tomorrow and making sure these old plants are able to run.”
“I think when we get a chance to sit down and engage with those folks,” he says, “we may not win all of them over, but I think we’re going to win most of them over.”