US city seeks to buy itself out of ‘albatross’ desalination deal

The mayor of US city, Brockton in Massachusetts has proposed an US$ 88 million bid by the city to buy its near-unused Dighton desalination plant to free it from a 20-year contract with the plant owner.

Mayor Bill Carpenter said the contact with Aquaria had been been an “albatross” for Brockton. Brockton has been spending US$ 4 million to US$ 6 million a year under a deal signed by city officials signed in 2002, when the state required the city to find an alternative source to abstraction from Silver Lake. Carpenter said annual payments would rise to as much as US$10 million whether or not the city uses any water.

But since the plant opened in 2008, it has only been taking water from the Taunton River to keep its machinery in working order. “We are stuck in a bad deal now,” Carpenter said. “It is in the best interest of the rate payers of Brockton to buy the plant.”

Carpenter said buying the plant would provide water for Brockton’s own use its own use as well as drinking water to other communities, even though the current owners have been unable to do so.

But even without the sale of water to other towns, the city could save at least $1 million annually by cancelling the contract and taking on bond financing, said Brockton’s chief financial officer, John Condon.

Under the terms of a tentative agreement reached with Aquaria, the city would buy the plant through a US$ 5 million-a-year, 20-year bond if the owner proves the plant can deliver an average of 25Ml of water a day.

The proposal has been was met with skepticism by city councillors and residents including concerns that the operating cost might erode any savings.