Boil order remains in effect in Webster, MA
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
By Jean Laquidara Hill
Telegram & Gazette Staff
WEBSTER-- As a boil order continues because of E. coli contaminating the public
water supply, town officials are trying to provide an alternate water source for residents
so they will not need to continue boiling water vigorously for a full minute, or have to
Water Department Superintendent David R. Lavallee said the
most optimistic outlook would be a lifting of the boil order late tomorrow, if water
submitted for testing yesterday proves to be clean.
Test results that came back yesterday on water submitted
Sunday showed no contamination at the Webster Manor test site on School Street and none at
the Hubbard Regional Hospital test site on Thompson Road. But E. coli was found at another
test site on Thompson Road near the Connecticut line and at two test sites on Route 16,
Mr. Lavallee said.
The town water supply comes from three well sites. Two are
within a quarter-mile of each other near Memorial Beach, and the other is on Bigelow Road.
The water distribution system is looped, so contamination entering at any point could be
distributed throughout the system, according to Mr. Lavallee.
He said he thinks fluctuations in water pressure caused by
firefighting could have caused the contamination. Or it could have come from goose feces,
or from another source. He said he is checking to see if there is any problem in the
system that could cause contamination.
While searching for the source of contamination and waiting
for the water to test clean, the town is chlorinating water, and that could provide safe
water by Thursday, after it passes two rounds of testing, Mr. Lavallee said.
People have been calling the Water Department constantly,
asking if the water has tested clean yet, and most have been frustrated but reasonable,
according to Mr. Lavallee.
Health Agent Lawrence W. Peters said yesterday that Price
Chopper supermarket has offered to donate bottled water for elderly residents, and the
Army National Guard is at Memorial Beach purifying water from Webster Lake to make it
available to residents. According to Mr. Peters, the lake water will not be available
until 48 hours after it is purified, because it has to be certified by the state
Department of Environmental Protection before it can be dispensed to the public.
The town will post the water availability on public access
Channel 11 and alert all news media when safe water is available, Mr. Peters said.
He said it is critical that people take the boil order
seriously, and that they watch children closely to make sure they do not ingest town
water. It is difficult for people to break such routines as rinsing a toothbrush under the
faucet, he said.
People can shower and bathe with town water if they are very
careful not to get any in their mouths, but he cautioned against having a face cloth in
the bathtub, because it can get contaminated. And, he said, children tend to get bath
water in their mouths.
He said the precautions are most stringent for restaurants
and day care centers, since the state Department of Public Health requires child care and
food service employees in this situation to boil water and cool it to between 105 and 110
degrees to wash their hands.
We're letting the restaurants stay open as long as
they don't let people into the lavatories. If they want to sell food, that's fine, but
they can't use the town water unless they want to sterilize the pots, which they can do by
boiling the water and using a sanitizing agent, Mr. Peters said yesterday.
They're losing money, and we don't want to hurt them
in that respect, he said.
The Army National Guard is purifying 6,000 gallons of water
an hour using two multistage purification systems usually used to provide water for troops
in areas where there is no safe water, according to First Lt. Darren M. Clapprood of the
Army National Guard.
He said about 30 members of units from the 125th
Quartermaster of Webster and the 704th Quartermaster of Framingham are processing the
water at the beach. The beach is closed because of the water purification operation.
First, Lt. Clapprood said, the goal is to provide 50,000
gallons of water, which will be stored in a tan balloon-like container that has a nozzle
so the water can be dispensed.
People can bring water jugs and fill them up,
when the water is ready and has been tested, he said.
He said the lake water is put through a spin cycle,
which spins out sand and other solid materials; then it is put into a massive filtration
system, where chlorine is added to kill bacteria and a coagulant is added that causes
remaining particles to bind together so they can be filtered out.
He said the water that has been processed so far has been
sent for testing and the town is awaiting test results. Residents will be notified through
public access Channel 11 and the media when the water is ready.