For too long, the residents of the Town of Webster have been dealing with the frustrating issue of discolored water. Discolored water can be caused by a number of conditions, one of the most common being unlined cast iron pipes that generate rust when they come into contact with settled water. There is a regulation known as the Lead and Copper Rule which only allows a certain amount of lead and copper to be detected in your tap water. The Town monitors these levels very carefully and treats our water to be sure it stays within these limits.
Unfortunately, our groundwater also contributes to our problem with discolored water. High levels of iron and manganese can be found in groundwater sources throughout New England so we are not alone in this problem. We need to treat our water to control these levels while also treating our water with chlorine to control bacteria. Again, this settled water within an unlined cast iron pipe causes rust when disrupted with running water. Please know that we work diligently to ensure that all of our water treatment programs are beneficial to public health. In our Town's case, the unfortunate side effect is discolored water.
So how do we make our water clean? We're happy to inform you that we are at the beginning of Step 1 of a 2 step process: to construct a Water Filtration Plant to remove unwanted elements from our water. Step 2 will involve upgrading our water distribution system to either line our unlined cast iron pipes or replace them. Let's first bring you up to date on Step 1.
Water Filtration Plant
The bidding process for the construction of the new Water Filtration Plant was recently completed. The best prices were within a narrow margin of one another. Unfortunately, due to escalating construction costs, the project cost came in higher than projected. We weighed all options and moving forward will be looking for cost-saving measures wherever possible without compromising the integrity of the design of the Plant. We are also going to Town Meeting on October 30, 2017, to request additional funding in the amount of $350,000 to cover the unexpected increased construction costs. Hopefully, the Town will support this request and we will be able to move full-steam ahead with an estimated project completion date of early 2019!
Cleaning and Lining
This year, we will be doing some cleaning and lining of our unlined cast iron pipes with a thin layer of concrete. This will provide a barrier between the pipe and the water, eliminating the production of rust. We have come up with a prioritized list of streets and as to where we will be conducting this work. This will be a long-term project since the majority of our system (50% - 40 miles) is unlined cast iron and many of the pipes will need to be replaced.
Our Board of Selectmen have been extremely supportive, hearing your concerns about the need to upgrade our water system to achieve optimal water quality. The new Water Filtration Plant will dramatically help, but the work will not end there. We need the continued support of our elected and appointed officials as well as you, our customers, to complete the long-term goal of achieving optimal water production for our Town.
Hydrant Flushing Program
During the time the Water Filtration Plant is being built, we will continue our Hydrant Flushing program twice a year. We have noticed a sizeable decrease in the amount of water it takes to complete this task. This indicates that our system is doing a great job of clearing out more of the stronger, adhered debris. Our water pressure is increased as our pipes become wider and able to accommodate a larger, faster flow of water.
For the time being, we will continue with our Ice Pigging program every fall to clear the worst sections of our system with heavy debris. The majority of our streets that were treated in the last two years have noticed a substantial improvement in their water quality. The Ice Pigging Program will begin the first week in November.
After the Water Filtration Plant is up and running, the Town will evaluate the need to continue both this program as well as the Hydrant Flushing Program. As always, the Town will continue to work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Drinking Water Division on every aspect of addressing and correcting our water quality issues. Please be assured that this agency is committed to working with the Town to help us find a remedy for our customers.
One Final Note
We are really excited to be able to report the progress that has been made in moving forward to correct the issues that are causing discolored water in the Town. The Town, especially the Water Department, are most appreciative of your patience and support while we work to ensure access to clean water for all of our customers. Please call the Town of Webster Water Department with any questions or concerns: (508) 949-3861. Thank you!