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Conversation with DPW Director

by Mary Greendale
August 17, 2018

Late addition: As of August 14, well#4 was cleared for use.

Last week, water users in Holliston received a notice that e coli bacteria had been discovered in Well #4. The notice was filled with jargon, and DPW Director Sean Reese was told by DEP that he could not change the language. So he released a statement to the Holliston Reporter on August 10th.

Mr. Reese and I had a conversation about this incident and other work within the department. The goal of this and future articles is to report to the public on the water system in general and any incidents in particular.

E coli issue
The Town took routine water samples from 26 locations on August 7 and on the 9th got the analysis back from DEP indicating the presence of e coli in the raw water in Well # 4 near Weston Pond. The Water Department then ran Well #4 to waste and resampled all 26 locations and asked for an accelerated report. Tests from the 9th indicated there was no e coli anywhere in the system including Well#4, but there was some coliform (an indicator of potential disease-causing pathogens).

The Town must have five totally clean samples to satisfy DEP. During the time it takes for all of this to happen, officials at both state and local levels are evaluating the ongoing needs and whether or not the system warrants changes to accommodate new conditions, e.g. possibly chlorinating the well water directly as a routine.

Distribution System
Water main replacements are taking place around Town. The $75 fee per quarter from ratepayers funds these replacements. 

Treatment System

The Town approved a new Treatment Plant at well#5. The goal is to apply for and receive a zero interest loan? from the State Revolving Fund. This would be the most economical approach. The application is due to the state in October and the state makes decisions in January. Once that is in place, Reese can proceed to get the design finished and put it out to bid.

This new Treatment plant will have Source Water Protection to reduce risk of contamination from raw water.

Open Invitation to Residents 

“The Water Department invites residents of Holliston to tour a treatment facility with me. Residents can contact the office for an appointment. Actually seeing the process makes it easier to understand. I want people to be comfortable knowing that this is a sophisticated and properly maintained system.”  Sean Reese, Dir. DPW

Water Vocabulary.

Raw water and Source water are the same thing. This is the water that is in the ground and is drawn into the wells. This water is tested at 26 locations every other week to test for e coli specifically. Those samples are sent to DEP. It normally takes 24 hours for the state to get results. If something is detected, DEP can use an accelerated process and get results in 18 hours.

First customer is the treatment facility.

Distribution System includes all equipment, underground pipes, water mains, storage tanks etc. that take the fully processed, clean water to homes and businesses.

Treatment System refers to the equipment and processes used inside the treatment plants at the wells to collect the raw water and treat it to make it drinkable.

Surface water refers to the water that is on top of the ground typically from rain or a very high water table.

Storm water refers to surface water that gets washed into the raw water during rainstorms. When the rainwater drains off the surface it lands on, it can pick up bacteria. For example, if a dog “poops” on a driveway and then rainwater pushes some part of the excrement into the drains, this surface water could be contaminated by e coli.

E coli bacteria comes from animal waste – human animals, dogs, geese, cows…whatever. It is a potent bacterium and can cause serious illness and major discomfort. It can typically be treated with antibiotics.

Coliform bacteria in the water are an indication that other disease-causing bacteria might be present. Coliform provides the “early warning system,” and this is what DEP tests for.

 

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Comments (2)

How do we know what we'll we get our water from. Also it would great to publish the location of all the wells in town.

- Gene V | 8/19/18 8:14 PM

Thanks for trying to help with this,Mary. Still pretty unnerving.

- pat fuller | 8/17/18 8:48 PM

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