Easthampton lands grant to help enhance water system using fiber-optics

Easthampton Municipal Building, 50 Payson Avenue

Easthampton Municipal Building, 50 Payson Avenue GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By ALEXA LEWIS

Staff Writer

Published: 06-17-2024 12:54 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The city will soon start collecting real-time data on its water system’s health, including water quality and levels in wells and tanks, using fiber-optic technology that is expected to reduce the need for physical inspections and data collection.

This upgraded mode of data collection also will allow the city to respond more swiftly to emergencies such as leaks and contamination, officials said.

“It’s critical infrastructure,” said Karin Camihort, the city’s information technology director.

The project is possible thanks to a recent $250,000 awarded by the Municipal Fiber grant program. This is the second grant that Easthampton has received from the state as part of ongoing efforts to improve city infrastructure with fiber-optic technology.

The previous fiber grant allowed the city to connect all of its municipal buildings with fiber-optic infrastructure, which will increase efficiency and allow for savings when internet is purchased. The city is also exploring fiber connections with Southampton, with whom it shares dispatch operations.

“It’s fantastic because it allows us to build our fiber network among our different offices,” said Camihort. “We can cut costs on internet because we can purchase it for one office and distribute it.”

The new water infrastructure project also will reduce future costs with its capability for early emergency detection and response, including reductions in water loss through leaks, as well as allowing the city to optimize the use of water resources with its improved, real-time data.

In addition, it is expected to help city officials maintain consistent, quality water services as the city continues to expand and reach new levels of demand. The public will experience enhanced customer service, quicker public health updates, and an increased level of transparency surrounding the water system and its health, Camihort said.

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This project is multi-faceted, and will require more funding than the $250,000 recently awarded. This award will be directed at laying over 40,000 miles of new fiber, as well as the acquisition of necessary hardware such as routers and switches, and the professional services needed to design and implement the extension.

“At this point, we’re just putting the infrastructure in place,” Camihort said. “At some point, we’ll develop a software that will use sensors to communicate with the teams what’s happening in the tanks.”

The rest of the project, which involves the development and implementation of such software, is estimated to cost another $250,000.

“We’re hoping to find other resources to finance that piece,” Camihort said. She emphasized that the city hopes to find this additional funding through further grants, rather than shifting the burden to taxpayers.

According to the city’s application for this most recent grant, the proposed timeline for the network’s expansion to tanks and water wells is eight to 10 months. The first three months will be dedicated to the pole permitting process, which will involve ongoing communication with Verizon and Eversource.

“From month four onwards, the focus shifts to the physical tasks: laying fiber optic cables, setting up networking equipment, and conducting comprehensive system tests to ensure everything functions as intended,” the city said in its application.

Though Camihort said that this project would be a “long process,” she also expressed excitement about the improvements and connectivity that the city’s growing fiber-optic network offers.

“It creates a very secure network, and it gives us more flexibility,” she said.

Alexa Lewis can be reached at alewis@gazettenet.com or on Instagram and Twitter at @alexamlewis.